5 Tips for Managing Medications for Children with Disabilities

Saad and Ray Dinno

When it comes to caring for children with disabilities, many parents ask us how they can best manage their child’s medication. From keeping track of prescriptions to administering proper doses on time, parents and caregivers may struggle to manage it all. To help, we’ve listed five things every person caring for a child with disabilities should know.

1. Keep a Calendar

Depending on your child’s needs, he or she may require varied doses of multiple medications throughout the day. It can be a major challenge. We recommend keeping a calendar in a centralized location – such as on the refrigerator – that’s easy to access for everyone in the house, especially if multiple family members are responsible for administering medication throughout the day. Clearly label the time of day and proper dosage needed, and the person administering the medication should check it off when your child takes it. Having an organized and accessible way to keep track of medication will help ease the stress and ensure your child receives the right medicine at the right time. Ask your pharmacist if they offer a “compliance packaging” system for individual packets of tablets or capsules with the date and time the medication is to be given. This is one way to keep track of medications and keep them in order.  

2. Make a List 

If your child’s prescriptions frequently change, due to diet or weight fluctuation or a change in disease state, for instance, keeping an up-to-date list of their prescribed medicine may be a useful tool. We recommend placing this on your phone in the notes section, for instance, so that you can easily pull it up when you need it for reference. This list will be helpful to share with your child’s providers, so that they can prescribe medicine that won’t cause drug interactions or duplicate therapy. This list would also be helpful in emergency situations, as medical staff will need to know exactly which medications and doses your child takes. Having this information handy will certainly help when an emergency arises.

3. Know Your Pharmacist

Establishing a relationship with your child’s pharmacist can be important when your child is frequently in need of new prescriptions or refills. A pharmacist can be a trusted and accessible source when you have questions about a new medication or need guidance on how to administer it. For instance, they can tell you if a medication contains dyes or other ingredients to which your child is allergic, and recommend an alternative. They can also help when it comes to keeping track of refills and expiration dates. Most pharmacists can easily notify your doctor when a refill is due to save you the stress of handling it all on your own. A local pharmacist can certainly lend a helpful hand when it comes to managing prescriptions.

4. Remember Safety First

Medication, whether liquids or tablets, should be kept in secure bottles when not in use. This limits the chance that children will take a medication when they shouldn’t. For liquid medicine (whether oral or sterile injections), remember never to pre-draw medications in a syringe. Drugs left in syringes for too long can be absorbed in the apparatus, which may compromise the amount of medication administered and potentially affect sterility. The safest way to use a medication is to draw it as close as possible to the time of administration.  

5. Educate Others

Caring for a child often requires a group effort, and when a parent isn’t around it can be stressful placing you child’s care in the hands of someone else. That’s why we recommend training everyone who cares for your child ahead of time. Keep a list of medical emergency contact phone numbers that include medical providers, emergency contacts, and members of your child’s healthcare team in a central location for easy access. In case of an emergency, it is important that a caregiver such as a family member can easily reach a trained professional who is already aware of your child’s needs. If your child has epilepsy, for example, encourage family members and caregivers to take a class to learn how to identify the signs of a seizure and the appropriate steps to take. These precautions will help ease your worries and keep your child safe when you aren’t there.

Saad and Ray Dinno, brothers, are registered pharmacists and co-owners of Acton Pharmacy, Keyes Drug in Newton, and West Concord Pharmacy.