Give the Right Dose
OK, you’re probably saying “Duh!” but hopefully you haven’t just skipped this part. While it’s common sense to give the right dose of medication, how to give the right dose may not be. For example, if a medication calls for a dose of 1 teaspoon, you may be tempted to break out your measuring spoons for baking or, worse yet, your stirring spoon (well, it is called a teaspoon, right?). There can be wide variations in stirring spoons, and even calibrated measuring spoons, so it is best to always give the medication with the measuring device the pharmacist gives you.
Pills can be just as tricky. You may have a prescription that calls for ½ tablet of a medication. You may be tempted to simply bite the pill in half (I’m guilty of this too) but you would be much safer using a pill splitter. These can be purchased at your pharmacy or may be provided by your hospice or other healthcare agency. Capsules of medications shouldn’t be open and divided. Ever.
Give the Medicine Through the Right Route
If a medication is ordered to be given orally, that means your patient will need to swallow it. If swallowing pills is a problem for your patient, always tell your doctor or nurse. You may also ask the pharmacist if the medication comes in a liquid form. You should never crush a medication and put it in something, like applesauce, unless the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist tells you it’s OK. Some medications are extended release, meaning that they give a set dose of medication at regular intervals throughout the day. Crushing these types of pills would allow a large dose of medication to be delivered all at once.
Another word of advice: If a medication is ordered as a suppository, don’t try to get your patient to swallow it. I’ve seen this happen and it’s not pretty. A suppository is only to be given in the rectum. If you are unsure how to give one, ask someone to show you. It’s really a simple thing to do:
- Have some gloves and lubrication handy for the task.
- Put on your latex gloves.
- Coat the suppository with the lubrication and gently insert it into the rectum.
- If you meet any strong resistance, stop.
- You should be able to slide it in easily until it’s “swallowed” by the rectum.