Simple tips for medication safety during the festive season

After prolonged lockdowns and border closures, many Aussies are desperate to enjoy a well-deserved festive season.

 

This typically involves catching up with family and friends and travelling to exciting new places for summer holidays.

 

However, it is important to ensure that, as we move out of the home environment and regular routines, people continue to manage their health and safety. One area that can sometimes be neglected is medication management.

 

Every year millions of Australians suffer adverse medicine events as a result of not taking medications as prescribed. This is a major issue, but even more so during Christmas holidays when routines can change.

 

Medication expert Gerard Stevens AM (Managing Director of Webstercare and an Australian pioneer of medication management for the past 40 years) explains.

 

“The festive season and holidays can be a time when it is easy to lose track of normal daily schedules. The distraction and abundance of social events disrupt one’s regular routine, making it hard to remember whether medication has been taken. Everyone wants to relax and have a good time, particularly this year, but things don’t always go according to plan, especially when daily medication routines are interrupted.”

 

Simple steps to stay medication safe

Safe medications make safe holidays. Hopefully many of us will be able to get away this year and catch up with family and friends for Christmas and the New Year. But what happens if you run out of your medications or lose them?

 

Mr Stevens, who invented the Webster-pak that keeps thousands of Australians medication-safe every day, says a few simple steps can help minimise the chance of medication misadventure while people are away from home - giving them and their family peace of mind:

 

1. Ask your pharmacist for a Webster-pak® for the duration of your holiday

A Webster-pak will ensure all medications prescribed are available for the duration of the trip and act as a reminder to take the recommended doses. The most widely used blister-pack in Australia is the Webster-pak®, which was invented more than 35 years ago.

“With a Webster-pak system, the pharmacy will supply a week’s worth of medication packed into individual dosage times, so you know exactly what needs to be taken at the right time. Your pharmacy may even deliver it for you!” says Mr Stevens.

 

2. Carry a PocketProfile™ Medicines List in a wallet or purse

People can find it difficult to remember and explain exactly what medications and doses they take, especially with multiple medications. One solution is Webstercare's PocketProfile Medicines List, which can simply be printed by your pharmacist. It contains a person's entire medication profile, including images of medications, and neatly folds down to the size of a credit card, so it’s easy to keep in your purse or wallet. Whenever a medication changes, your pharmacist will issue you with an updated PocketProfile.

 

“Around one-in-five people aged 70 or older are on four or more medications, which they truly need. It can be difficult to remember all of the names and correct dosages,” warned Mr Stevens. “So having an up-to-date list can be very useful. Plus, in an age where things are increasingly digital, users of the PocketProfile don’t need the latest gadgets, apps and electronic devices – it won’t run out of charge and it won’t shut down.”

 

The PocketProfile also contains the person's home pharmacy and phone number, enabling a pharmacist at a holiday destination to simply ring the home pharmacy to confirm the medications that were prescribed, before issuing emergency replacements to last the remainder of the holiday.

 

“It is particularly helpful in emergency situations. Medical staff can immediately see a patient's medications and any other medical concerns, including ‘in case of emergency’ contact details,” said Mr Stevens.

 

3. Speak to your pharmacist before going away

“It is a good practice to check in with your pharmacist before going away, they are a wealth of knowledge and information,” said Mr Stevens.

 

“It is also an opportunity to speak to them about the Pharmacist Shared Medicines List, (PSML) a consolidated list of medicines prepared by a pharmacist and uploaded to a patient’s My Health Record. It can help to reduce medication-related problems, specifically those experienced by older Australians.”

 

Reference: Medication safety in acute care in Australia: where are we now? Part 1 (Review 2002-2008), Aug 2009.

 

4 December 2021.