Last Updated on September 3, 2020 by Ellen Christian
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Those who have been reading my blog for a while have probably figured out that in addition to the other hats I wear, I am a caregiver. My husband hurt his back about ten years ago and after several failed surgeries, steroid injections, physical therapy and acupuncture, he still has chronic pain, permanent nerve damage and loss of feeling in his foot. He is no longer able to do the things that he used to do and needs help managing some things throughout the day. He is also on a number of different medications for pain and inflammation. These tips for caregivers and safe medicine usage are ones that work for me.
Tips for Caregivers and Safe Medicine Usage
Because Marty is on pain medication, he sometimes doesn’t think as clearly as he should. He occasionally forgets things like when he took his last pill or where he put his glasses. I help him manage his medications and keep him on a healthy schedule. People with chronic pain are often on a number of different medications. While everything he takes is prescribed by one doctor and filled at one pharmacy, I sometimes worry that there is some sort of overlap.
Marty takes pain medication along with an NSAID to help with inflammation. He also takes low dosage aspirin to help with heart health. I know that there is some overlap in these medications but I never had any idea how much was OK or how much I should worry about. Each year, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 people are hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding and liver damage from overdose or overuse of pain medicines and an estimated 17,000 die from these issues. That scares me.
The Gut Check Know Your Medicine campaign is an educational campaign by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) to educate people about the safe use of pain medication. The most common OTC pain medicines fall into two categories: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)* and acetaminophen. More than 500 OTC and prescription products contain acetaminophen and nearly 550 contain an NSAID. These products may have different names but it’s important to remember that they may share the same ingredients.
These ingredients can cause harm when taken together or in excess of a maximum dose. The maximum daily dose for acetaminophen is 4,000 mg/daily. The maximum daily dose for NSAIDs varies by ingredient and can be as low as 660 mg/day for naproxen sodium, 1,200 mg/day for ibuprofen, and 4,000 mg/day for aspirin. When in doubt, talk to a professional about dosage and medicine interaction
- Read the labels carefully to see exactly what ingredients are in what medications. Stay within the allowable daily dosage.
- Choose single medications rather than combinations. Take a pain reliever for a headache and a cough medicine for a cough rather than a cold and flu medication that may contain several ingredients.
- Use a pill organizer to keep track of what pills you take what days. I have one for myself that is a week’s worth of pills broken down into days. Marty has one that is one day at a time broken down into morning, lunch, dinner and evening. Use whatever works best for you.
- Have set times that you take pills. Taped to the side of Marty’s computer is the time of day he takes each pill. He knows that if it isn’t 2:30, it isn’t time for pain medication. Be consistent.
People don’t realize that exceeding the recommended dose of acetaminophen can result in serious liver damage. This damage cannot be reversed and is not always recognizable. Exceeding the recommended dose of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeding which is a serious and life- threatening condition.
Please visit the AGA Gut Check site for more information and remember to read the labels.
Ellen is a busy mom of a 22-year-old son and 27-year-old daughter. She owns 5 blogs and is addicted to social media. She believes that it doesn’t have to be difficult to lead a healthy life. She shares simple healthy living tips to show busy women how to lead fulfilling lives. If you’d like to work together, email firstname.lastname@example.org to chat.