Caring Web

Understanding & Managing Medications

Understanding and managing medications (both over-the counter and prescription) after a stroke or other disease can be tricky when dealing with all the other responsibilities a caregiver has.

In order to keep track of all the medications your loved one is taking, it is important to stay organized and be aware of what medications they are taking.

  • A good place to start is with knowing the brand name** and generic name** of the medications, dose and what the drug is used for.
  • **Brand name is the trade name of the drug, whereas the generic name is the name for a drug that is not sold under a specific drug company or trademark. An example of a brand name is Tylenol. The generic name for Tylenol is acetaminophen.
  • Other details include the correct way to take the drugs including swallowing, inhaling, rectally, dissolved under the tongue, injected under the skin or in a muscle, rubbed on the skin and others.
  • Some drugs are best given at a particular time, with or without food.
  • If you use alcohol, please talk with either your pharmacist or healthcare professional to discuss whether the drugs you are taking might interact with the alcohol.
  • Another occasion to talk to your healthcare professional and/or pharmacist is if you notice side effects (such as fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea and vomiting) after taking the medications and before suddenly stopping a particular treatment or drug.

Understanding Medications

medicationsSometimes it is hard to make sense of medications if they have similar names or if they look alike. If you are having trouble with understanding your prescriptions, don’t hesitate to:

  • Ask your loved one’s healthcare provider for help with understanding dosages, why the medications are needed, how to administer them, if they can be crushed and when to give them.
  • Consult with the pharmacist. Most pharmacies have a consult area for asking the pharmacist questions about prescribed medications.

In order to understand your loved ones medications more easily at home, please visit the Prescription Drug Look-Up website.

Information often found on this website includes:

  • Reasons for using the medication.
  • Side effects of the drugs you are searching for.
  • Safety measures to take with this medication.
  • Possible drug interactions.

Use this website to learn more about medications along with the written material that comes with many medications.

Managing Any Medications

          Follow these tips in order to keep medications organized:

  • Make a list. Make sure to keep an up-to-date list of all over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications and take it with you to every healthcare provider visit.
    • Include the medication name, dose and reason it is being taken, and a list of allergies and a description of reactions the person is known to have.
    • Other useful information to have on your medication list is the contact information of both your healthcare provider and pharmacist, and a list of all the person’s known medical conditions.pill bottles
    • It might also be helpful to keep this list in an easy to access place, such as on the refrigerator and in purses/wallets for emergency situations.
    • File away written prescription medication material. After you have read the written material that comes with your prescription, put it in a safe place where you can easily find it if you have any questions about dosage or side effects.
    • Use one pharmacy. Having all prescriptions filled at one pharmacy helps the pharmacist track them so they can alert you to possible dangerous drug problems.
    • Ask for easy open containers at the pharmacy. Pharmacies usually have access to medication bottles that are easy to open and are able to give them to you upon request.
      • Make sure to keep all medications out of the reach of children.
      • Dispose of drugs properly. You can ask your pharmacist for advice on how to properly discard medications.

 Reminder Techniques

     Ask the healthcare provider what is the best time and technique for taking medications. The following reminder techniques may help:

  • Find a routine. As a caregiver, you might want to take into account the wishes of your loved one as well as the proper use of the drugs and also suggestions from your healthcare provider and/or pharmacist to find a good routine to get into.
  • Use a pill organizer.Organizers are available with one daily dose or enough compartments for multiple doses per day.
    • They are available at your local pharmacy and medical supply store.
    • It is important to be alert to take the medications from the correct compartment and use them properly.
    • Mark on a chart or calendar when medications are taken. This method works well with persons that use schedules and planners or respond well to visual cues.
    • Subscribe to a reminder service, if affordable for you.Some people have a very hard time remembering to take their medications.
      • For a fee, medical alert companies can call with reminders about taking medications.

Technology may provide free help for reminders to take medications. Cell phone alarms, computer reminder and other tools are available. Please visit this web site for free help with remembering to take medications.

Additional Information:

The following are websites that can give you more information about understanding and managing your medications.

Taking Medications

Understanding Your Prescription


Davis, T. C., Federman, A. D., Bass III, P. F., Jackson, R. H., Middlebrooks, M., Parker, R., M., & Wolf, M. S. (2009). Improving patient understanding of drug label instructions. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24(1), 57-62.

Gould, E., & Mitty, E. (2010). Medication adherence is a partnership, medication compliance is not. Geriatric Nursing. 31(4), 290-298.

McCoy, K. (2010). How to manage your prescription medications. Retrieved from

National Jewish Health. (2009). Managing your medication supply. Retrieved from

Developed in 2012 by Jamie M. Neal BSN, RN at the University of Toledo for the Caring-Web©.

Last Updated: 6/27/22