Becoming a Heart Warrior, Part II

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1st Corinthians 13:11

When you were a child, your parents took care of you. This probably included organizing your medications, making sure that you took them at the proper times, and picking up refills from the drugstore. But now that you are older, that responsibility should shift to you – and if you have any desire to be independent, you should welcome it!

But there is a flip side to the coin: These medications are confusing, difficult to obtain, and extremely important. They keep you going, and thought of taking control of your medication needs can be daunting. But don’t worry – its a little bit easier than it looks, if you have a system.

One thing you might find useful is this document: Drug Chart (.PDF file) Click the link, and a .PDF file will appear that you can use to organize your medications depending on the time of day that you need to take them.

Before you fill this chart out, make several blank copies or save it to your computer. Your doctor will change your medication, and you’ll need a fresh chart to write the new schedule on. At the top, near where it says “Medication List for” write your name – and write the date, too. If you go several months without having a medication change (lucky you!) you should still update the chart occasionally and change the date, so that everyone can tell that you keep your chart current.

Sit down and organize your meds, grouping them by when you take them. If this is your first time or the instructions on the bottles are confusing, get your parents to help. We’re not going to jump into this with no guidance at all; after all, you are learning how to take control of your health. It’s a process, and it is perfectly fine to get help until you feel comfortable.

Once you have the meds organized, have someone familiar with your routine double-check your efforts, and then fill the chart out. Now, I can take all of your pill bottles and mix them up, but as long as you have that chart, you should be able to quickly figure what you are supposed to take – and when!

A lot of CHDers organize a weeks worth of pills at a time, usually on the weekend. If this is the way your family does it, take over – but not all at once. One weekend a month, you take charge of organizing your pills for the week. As you gain confidence, work up to organizing all of your medications yourself.

Next, you need to learn how to take over getting your refills. You’ll need an index card (You can even cut it in half) and a calender. Not the family calender hanging next to the telephone, but a blank calender with enough space to write in the date blocks.

The easy part is examine every drug bottle and note how many refills that prescription has left. Write it down on your index card and keep the card in a safe place. This is easy, you’ll have a list that reads like this:

Nausea-B-Gone  8

NiceBeat  4

Blood Pressure 5

Every time you get a refill, take your list and reduce that prescription’s number by one. When you hit 0, you need a new prescription. Depending on the medication, you may be able to call the doctor’s office and ask for a new prescription. Or he/she may want you to come in for an appointment first. So as soon as you write 0, call the doctor’s office! That gives you plenty of time to see the doctor if that is what he/she wants.

Now you need your calender. Take your pill bottle and determine how many days worth of medication you have. If you have 90 pills and you take it twice a day, you have 45 days worth of medication. Count forward 45 days from today… now back up ten days. That’s the day you want to start thinking about getting your next refill of that medication from the drugstore – it gives you a ten-day “window” in case there is a problem getting the next refill.

Most drugstores don’t have an automatic refill policy, you will have to tell them that you need a refill. That can usually be done over the phone, by calling the pharmacy refill line and following the recorded directions. You usually type the prescription number (it’s on the bottle, following the letters RX) into the phone’s keypad and never speak to a person. Simple and easy!

I’ve made this explanation as simple as possible, almost to the point that readers might roll their eyes and wonder if I believe they know anything. I’m not writing for you today – I’m writing for those who realize that they will eventually have to take control of their own healthcare and may never have done any of this before. It is a lot of responsibility – don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance as you learn. Because one day, this job will be yours, no matter if you are ready or not.

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son! – If, Rudyard Kipling (1910)

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2 Responses to “Becoming a Heart Warrior, Part II”

  1. Tina Says:

    I think this is a great post. We are struggling with this at our house right now. My CHD teen is almost 15 and it drives me crazy when he tells me he is out of medication as he takes his last dose. I have let him take more responsibility as he has gotten older and then feel guilty if I let a refill slip up on me. The pharmacist says he is old enough to take some responsibility for letting me know it is time for refills. It is a learning process. We had somehow gotten on this schedule where he had 4 meds needing to be refilled at different weeks in the month. That was difficult because it seemed like I was constantly at the pharmacy. We now have most of his where they can be refilled at the same time. Yay! Growing up is hard to do and adding medicine in just makes it more complicated. Thanks for the great post!

  2. carolyn compton Says:

    My 15 year old stepson can’t remember where he leaves his ventolin inhaler for his asthma when he uses it. We keep it in the top drawer in the kitchen; he keeps it anywhere! He pretends he doesn’t get asthma anymore…very frustrating. Some teens go through such a hard time with responsibility. So we keep a couple spare around the house too! Clarry 2 y.o., at this stage looks like he will only need aspirin for his CHD. Before he had diuretics and I found it stressful remembering twice a day. The stakes always seemed too high if forgotten. Thanks Steve. Medication charts are a great idea, rather than relying on reading the bottle!

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