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Medication Management

Medications are taken to help your body adjust to the changes that have occurred since your stroke. To give you the best possible care, your doctor must be told your complete medical and surgical history.

  • Tell the doctor what over-the-counter and prescribed medications you are taking right now.
  • Describe any allergies to medications you might have.
  • Always notify your doctor if you’re pregnant. Medications you take will affect your baby too.

Medications contain chemicals that interact with your body. They replace chemicals that may be low in your body; help body systems that aren’t working right; and maintain the chemical balance throughout your body.

Drugs also interact with each other. One drug can stop another from working properly or can make another drug have a greater effect than is needed.

  • Your doctor always needs to know all the medications you’re taking to be sure they work well together.
  • Check with your doctor about drinking beer, wine or liquor because alcohol affects the way many drugs work.
  • Take medications your doctor has ordered exactly as they are prescribed. Always check with him or her if you feel you need to increase or decrease the dose.

Know Your Medications

Medications come in different forms. They vary in size, shape or color and have distinct markings. They may be in the form of tablets, capsules, ointments or liquids.

  • Know the names of your medications.
  • Know what they look like. (Remember, generic medications may look different.)
  • Know why you are taking them.
  • Know any side effects they might cause.

You alone are responsible for all this information so that you can be independent in caring for yourself. If someone else is giving medicine to you, personally verify medication before you take it.

Use a chart to help you keep a record of your medications. You and your nurse should fill this out before your hospital discharge. If your doctor orders new medications, take the time to find out the names and purpose of each. Add this information to your chart. With these details in one place, you can now be sure your medications are taken as directed.

Side Effects

Most medications can cause side effects in your body. These usually are not a problem because they can be controlled by regulating the amount of drug you take and when you take it. Notify your doctor if you notice any discomfort from your medications.

Drug Allergies

An unpredictable side effect can cause an allergic reaction. Some reactions occur immediately and some are delayed several days. Know what to look for and what to do.

  • The most common symptom is a skin reaction, such as itching or a rash.
  • Call your doctor right away.
  • If you have difficulty breathing or any other severe reaction to any medication, call an ambulance immediately and go to the emergency department.

When to Take Your Medication

The schedule will be written on the prescription bottle or on the envelope containing your pills. Most medications are spaced at least four hours apart. Taking them more often is unwise, but feel free to ask your doctor how best to fit medications into your personal daily schedule. Learn how long you should continue the medication. Be prepared to renew your medication long before your supply runs out.

Guidelines to Success in Taking Your Medication

  • If refrigeration is required, keep the medicine in the refrigerator. This will avoid spoilage or loss of potency.
  • If directions say to mix a medication with water or juice, do so. This will provide faster absorption.
  • Do not give your medications to friends or relatives. Your medications are specifically prescribed for you. They may be dangerous for another person.
  • Keep medications out of reach of children.
  • If you have any questions about your medication, contact your doctor or nurse.

Tips for Taking Medications Safely

To use medications safely, you will need to:

  • Understand why the medicine is being taken. Is it, for example, to control blood pressure, for an infection or for pain?
  • Know the dose as well as how often and when you need to take your medicine.
  • Know when to stop taking the medication. Always take the whole prescription, unless the doctor says otherwise.
  • Tell the doctor about any problems (side effects) that may happen when taking a medicine. Do you, for example, feel dizzy, have trouble voiding (urinating), have constipation, feel tired, have sexuality changes or concerns, bleed, bruise or have rashes?
  • Ask the doctor if you should avoid any foods or medications when taking a medicine.
  • When adding a new medication, ask the doctor if it’s possible to stop taking another medication.
  • Never stop taking a medication without talking to a doctor first.

Have a “brown-bag session” with the doctor. A brown-bag session is when all medications, including over-the-counter medications, are taken to a doctor visit. (Over-the-counter medications are those bought without a doctor’s prescription, such as Tylenol.) A brown-bag session gives the doctor a clear picture of what you’re taking. This session is a chance to ask questions and discuss side effects and concerns.