Help from Your Pharmacy to Stay Independent at Home

YellowTickMany community pharmacists and pharmacies offer a service to help customers stay independent, healthy and active. The Supporting Independent Living Programme addresses issues that threaten the health, independence and quality of life of people as they age or cope with ill health and/or disability.

It has been created to help those who need extra help to maintain their health and lifestyle, and provide them with the ability to function, participate and live a full and independent life.

The programme offers advice, assistance and information about your medicines and wellbeing. There is an opportunity to have a personal consultation with your pharmacist in a private pharmacy room, or in your own home.

Ways Pharmacies Can Help

  • Ensuring that you are taking your medicines at the right time, in the right dose and in the right way.
  • Understanding more about your medicines.
  • Better management of any side effects you may have.
  • Checking for drug interactions that may affect you.

Your pharmacist can also offer advice on other products and services that could make daily living better and/or easier:

Special Medicine Packaging

If you have trouble remembering to take your medicines, your pharmacist can offer you an organiser or blister packs. Both types of packaging make it easy to see whether or not you have taken your medicines.

Home Delivery

When personal mobility or transport to the pharmacy is a problem, pharmacies may be able to deliver your medicines to you.

Repeat Reminders

Supporting Independent Living pharmacies can remind you when you need to order your next supply.

Mobility and Home Health Aids

Your pharmacist can show you a range of mobility and household aids to help with daily tasks and preserve independence.

Continence Care Products

A continence care product advisor can give you advice about products and information about where to go for help with bladder control problems.

Over 90 pharmacies nationwide are registered as Supporting Independent Living Pharmacies. This number is expected to increase over the year.

For more information, ask your pharmacist about the Supporting Independent Living Programme.

Guidelines to help you safely use the medicines you get from your pharmacy
  • Make sure that you understand exactly how and when to take or use your medicines before you leave the pharmacy.
  • Read label instructions carefully.
  • Labels tell you how much to use, how often, and for how long for short term treatment. If the medicine is not to be swallowed, the label tells you how to use it. The label may also give some special instructions to follow (swallow whole, take with food).
  • Use the medicine exactly as stated on the label. If there is anything that you are unsure of, check with your pharmacist or doctor. Check the label for an expiry date. Some medicines such as eye drops can only be used safely for a limited time after the bottle has been opened.
  • Ask your pharmacist about common side effects and what to do if they occur.
  • Talk to your pharmacist if you have trouble remembering to take your medicines. There are organisers for daily or weekly doses and special types of packaging available to help you remember.
  • Use a proper medicine measure for liquid medicines. Household teaspoons vary in size so are not accurate enough for measuring medicines. Special droppers areavailable for giving medicines to babies and young children.
  • Consider getting all your medicines from one pharmacy. This allows the pharmacist to monitor possible interactions between medicines.
  • Ask your pharmacist for help if you’re not sure how to use different medicines (inhalers, pessaries, patches or drops). If your medicine looks different from what you are expecting or are used to, discuss this with your pharmacist. It may be the same medicine, but a different brand. Always check with your pharmacist to make sure.
  • Don’t change the amount of a prescribed medicine you take or how often without checking with your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Don’t share your medicines with family members or friends even if their symptoms seem similar to yours.
  • Don’t take medicines that have been prescribed for others.
Storing Medicines
  • Store medicines where children can’t see or reach them, preferably locked away. Special locking devices are available for cupboards and drawers.
  • Keep medicines in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight unless your pharmacist tells you otherwise.
  • Avoid steamy rooms such as the bathroom; don’t keep medicines in the fridge unless the label says so.
  • Keep medicines in their original labelled containers. Don’t put different tablets or capsules together in the same bottle.
  • Safety caps can be a problem for some older people or those with conditions such as arthritis. If you find safety caps difficult to manage, tell your pharmacist.
  • Medicines can then be dispensed in ordinary containers.

Make a point of regularly going through the medicines you have at home. Remove the following:

  • Prescription medicines that are no longer being used.
  • Old or expired non-prescription medicines such as vitamins, cough mixtures or pain relievers.
  • Medicines that have lost their labels or are no longer in their original containers.
  • Medicines that have changed colour, taste or smell.
  • Take any medicines that you no longer need or are past their use-by date to your pharmacy for disposal.
  • To get the most benefit from your medicines, they must be used correctly. If not, they may not work properly or may even be harmful.
Pharmacy Checklist

Before leaving the pharmacy make sure you know:

  • What the medicine is for.
  • How to take or use it.
  • When to take or use it.
  • How long to continue using it.
  • Possible side effects.
  • What to do if side effects occur.
  • Special precautions.
  • Foods or other medicines to avoid.
  • Whether you can drink alcohol while taking a medicine.
  • How to tell if the medicine is working.
  • Where to store the medicine.
  • When to come back for repeats.

If you are having trouble with your medicine, your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor to solve any problems. If there is anything you don’t understand or want explained – just ask! Your pharmacist is there to help you. Never leave the pharmacy until you know the answers to all your questions. If you think of a question later, then phone your pharmacist!

In case of overdose or accidental poisoning contact the National Poison Centre for advice or 0800 POISON 764 766.

Protect Children from Poisoning

Children under four years of age are most at risk of accidental poisonings. Around three quarters of poisonings occur in the child’s own home. The second most common place is the home of a friend or relative. Child poisonings are mostly caused by medicines or household chemicals, especially those stored unsafely or those ‘in use’ or ‘between uses’ at the time. Store medicines and household chemicals where children can’t see or reach them, preferably locked away. If a medicine needs to be stored in the fridge, keep it well back and on an upper shelf.

Buy medicines in small quantities so that you do not have large amounts stored at home. Ask your pharmacist to put safety caps on your medicines when they are dispensed. Remind grandparents and others who visit that medicines are easily accessible in handbags. Put the handbags out of reach. Educate children that only adults can give them medicine. Never call medicines sweets, lollies or soft drinks. Don’t take your medicine in front of young children as they may try to copy you.

© Family Care NZ