As A Caregiver: Do You Know What to Do?
As a caregiver to someone with chronic pain, I often find myself in a position of having to locate my wife’s medications. Sometimes I have to help administer her injections and find things to help her be as comfortable as possible.
Keeping the different medications straight
She has quite a few different medications in her arsenal to choose from such as abortive medications, preventive medications, anti-inflammatory medications, etc. She has both oral and injectable medications. The catch is that you cannot use all of them at once. She takes daily preventives and saves the abortive meds for when things get bad.
Most days my wife avoids taking anything strong for her migraines because overuse of the abortive or pain medications causes “rebound migraine”. On top of that, she doesn’t like to feel medicated unless it is necessary. It is also worth mentioning that many of the medications for migraine have drug interactions with other medications, which can be dangerous if not properly monitored.
I have helped my wife with all of this for as long as we have been together, but she dealt with it all for years before we got together. She knows which medications interact with which, how often any of them can be taken and in what order they work best. It is both of our responsibility to make sure we understand how her medications work, and to question her doctor if we have any doubts.
Keeping a quick reference
With so many different medications, it can be difficult to know or remember which ones go together and which ones must be separated. It is also tough to remember the timeline each medication has and how the medications can be rotated to achieve the best results. Her doctor can help us with the specifics on that, but it’s a good idea to make some type of log or journal. Writing it all down will help you to remember the facts, but it also gives you a hard copy quick reference to use if you significant other is ever in bad enough shape that they cannot give you a clear answer as to what should come next.
Tracking current and past medications
My wife keeps a detailed log of all current and past medications. She records which ones helped and which ones did not help her. Any time she is having an especially rough day, I make it a point to ask as early as possible, “What have you taken so far?” This way I know what should come next and when. It also lets me know when we have exhausted all options and possibly need to go to the emergency room.
Often times we have been surprised at how none of her medications would break the cycle of a migraine, only to find that a cool wet rag on her neck and forehead seemed to make all the difference.
Another reason it is important to be well informed about medications is that some people when in severe pain have difficulty speaking. The pain is simply too overwhelming and they cannot articulate the information you need. This can be scary for a caregiver because the last thing you want to do is unintentionally cause an overdose of medications. If you go to an emergency room, having all the correct information is crucial too because they have to know what medications she has had to prevent them from giving her something that might cause an unwanted interaction.
It can be a daunting experience at first, trying to learn about a number of medications. However, by using some type of written system such as a log or journal, a caregiver can remove most of the intimidation by removing the room for doubt. Write down interactions, side effects, dosing and times. That way there is no question what to expect. Then you can avoid worrying about giving too much medicine, and you will be better prepared to help your chronic sufferer.
Have you had any experiences with creating a journal or instruction set such as this? Did it help you?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?