This article was written by Tiffany Ward, an RN with Caregiver Homes.

Jeff knows about his medication. He can tell you what it is for and when he should take it. On a home visit, I noticed this consumer was engaged with his medication list and interested in learning. It prompted me and the rest of the care team to find ways to educate him even more about his health and medication management. Every consumer has a right to understand their medications, and there are great benefits from doing so.

Before becoming part of Caregiver Homes, Jeff lived alone. He was not as diligent with his medications. Now, he has a family he feels accountable to; they offer stability, and he takes ownership over his medication. To teach him about his medications, we needed to assess what he already knew.

Here are a few questions a nurse should ask a consumer to get a sense of their comfort level about their medications:

  • What are the names of your medications?
  • What is each medication for?
  • What days and times do you take each medication?
  • Do you feel you need all of your medication? If not, Why?
  • Do you ever forget to take your medication? If so, how do you feel when you forget?
  • What are some possible side effects of your medications?
  • What questions do you have about your medications?

These questions help a care team better understand where a consumer is at in his or her understanding of their medication.

When teaching adults, it is important to demonstrate how this knowledge is useful, practice what they learn, and draw on experience. The key to teaching an adult is understanding how they learn. Individuals are most effective when taught in their personal learning style. Learning styles include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Identifying the ways that a consumer best processes and remembers information will inform how you approach your teaching style. Maybe maps, graphs and charts are helpful to one consumer; others may prefer reading out loud. While Jeff learns by experiencing and demonstrating how to take his medication, another consumer I work with plays games with her caregiver, filling in blanks on worksheets about her medication. No matter what style is appropriate, an effective learning environment should always consist of mutual respect, trust, comfort, collaboration, and freedom to participate.

For consumers, this skillset broadens their independence and increases their self-esteem. It improves their quality of life and helps them make decisions about their care. Education also increases medication adherence. Knowing about his medication makes Jeff feel capable and proud. It is an accomplishment for him. He can speak about his medication with his doctor. Care teams should always be assessing whether there are new opportunities to educate consumers about their care.