How Your Pharmacist Can Help You Care for Others

Much-needed resources for caregivers

Caregiving may be rewarding but it is not always easy. Whether you are the parent of a child with special needs, the grown child of an aging parent, or the caregiver for other loved ones, you are one of more than 43 million adults who volunteer their time and energy, and often their finances, to take care of others.

You need the resources and support to make sure your loved one gets the care they need while making sure you don't burn out in the process. Thankfully, you can turn to your local pharmacist, like those at CVS, for help.

caregivers families aging parent
 SelectStock / Vetta / Getty Images

Streamlining Healthcare

Caring for someone with special needs or at the end of life is complicated in more ways than one. Technically speaking, there may be multiple medications involved or the need for durable medical equipment. Your pharmacist can help to smooth out the kinks.

Medication Administration

One of the ways your pharmacist can help is to provide different formulations of medications, some that may not be directly available from the pharmaceutical company. Consider the case that an aging parent is no longer able to swallow pills and a specific medication is not available in a liquid version. Some pharmacies are equipped to compound medications. This means that they can change the formulation of a drug, customize the strength or dose, or even combine different drugs together. Ask your pharmacist about this if it is something you may need.

Not all medications are administered by mouth. Your pharmacist can show you how to safely administer medications that require the use of medical supplies and how to properly use durable medical equipment. For example, medications like insulin need to be drawn up into a syringe at the appropriate dose and sterilely injected under the skin to treat diabetes. Nebulizer machines need to be properly assembled and routinely cleaned to treat conditions like asthma and COPD.


There is also the issue of convenience. When a loved one is treated with multiple medications, you may be confused about what they should take and when. Your pharmacist may be able to simplify this process by showing you how to effectively use a pillbox. They may even be able to package medications into bundles based on the time of day their medications are supposed to be administered. SimpleDose™, offered by CVS, for example, offers multi-dose packs in one conveniently shipped box. This decreases the odds that your loved one will miss a dose or otherwise receive medications at the wrong time of day.

Home delivery options, like those offered by CVS Pharmacy, may also save you a trip to the pharmacy.

Medication Reconciliation

Medication management can be difficult when your loved one has multiple healthcare providers. A change by one doctor may not reflect in the medication list in another doctor's medical records if there is not interoperability (cross-talk) between their electronic health records. If you did not attend all their doctor visits yourself, that can be especially confusing. Add a hospitalization or two, and tracking medication changes gets even more complicated.

In these cases, there is one true constant—your local pharmacist.

It is helpful to use one pharmacy, rather than getting prescriptions filled at multiple locations. When all prescriptions travel through a single weigh station, mistakes are less likely to occur.

Your pharmacist should be able to coordinate prescriptions between all your loved one's doctors and can contact the appropriate healthcare provider to address any discrepancies.

Follow-up with a medical doctor after hospitalization is very important, but you may not be able to schedule an appointment right away. It may be in your best interest to have a sit-down consultation with your pharmacist to review any discharge paperwork as soon as possible. This will give you clarity while you wait for the doctor's appointment. In this way, you can make sure your loved one is getting the right medications right now.

Decreasing Healthcare Costs

Six in 10 caregivers continue to work while acting as caregivers. Many of them report having to make workplace accommodations, like cutting back on hours or taking a leave of absence. Others find that they are penalized for tardiness or absenteeism when caregiving pulls them away from the job. Needless to say, it can be hard to balance the demands of work and caregiving.

Unfortunately, this often means that incomes go down when healthcare costs go up. Your local pharmacist can help to relieve some of that burden. They may counsel you on different ways to decrease your out of pocket expenses:

  • Transitioning to generic medications: If your loved one takes a brand-name medication, your pharmacist may recommend changing to a generic version, if one is available for that drug.
  • Drug manufacturer coupons: Your pharmacist can let you know if there are drug coupons available for any medications your loved one takes. Keep in mind these tend to be offered for brand-name medications rather than generics. Also, these coupons cannot be used with Medicare Part D.
  • Changing Medicare plans: If your loved one has a qualifying disability or is 65 years or older, they may be on Medicare. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (October 15 - December 7) allows them to change plans every year. Your pharmacist can guide you towards a plan that is most cost-effective for the medications they take.

Caring for the Caregiver

Being a caregiver is a selfless act and often involves juggling multiple responsibilities. The average caregiver spends 24 hours per week providing care but as many as 1 in 4 people give 40 hours every week. You want to do a good job but there are only so many hours in the day.

Unfortunately, many caregivers suffer from increased stress or burn out. Nearly a quarter of them report their own health is fair or poor. Approximately three-quarters see their own doctors less and as many as 55% skip doctor appointments altogether because they are otherwise invested in their caregiving duties. Reports have shown increased rates of depression, as high as 40 to 70% when compared to people who are not caregivers.

A pharmacist can help you care for your loved one but they can help you manage your own health symptoms too. With their medical background, they understand what you are going through and can offer social support. They can also provide information on stress management techniques. At the very least, you may be comforted to know you have a pharmacist on your side.

A Word From Verywell

As a caregiver, you take on a lot of responsibility. That does not mean you have to do it all alone. Your local pharmacy has many resources available to streamline care for your loved one and to take some of the burden off your shoulders.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Executive Summary: Caregiving in the U.S. June 2015.

  2. National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. Evercare Study of Caregivers in Decline: A Close-Up Look at Health Risks of Caring for a Loved One. September 2006.

  3. Zarit, S. Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective in Caregiver Assessment: Voices and Views from the Field (Vol II). Family Caregiver Alliance. April 2006.

By Tanya Feke, MD
Tanya Feke, MD, is a board-certified family physician, patient advocate and best-selling author of "Medicare Essentials: A Physician Insider Explains the Fine Print."