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Managing medications

It’s essential for you or your carer (if you have one) to learn how to manage, give and/or take medication.

Carers will need to know what the medications are for, how often they need to be taken, how to store them and how to administer them.

If you’ve been discharged from hospital or a hospice, full instructions on how to manage and take medications will be given to you, your doctor and carer. The labels on the medication also carry full instructions on safety and storage, and the required dose.

If any medication is going to be given through a syringe driver, this will be set up by your Marie Curie Nurse or district nurse. They will check the syringe driver each day.

On this page:

Storing medicines

There are several important things to note when storing medicines:

  • Read the instructions carefully. If the print is too small, ask someone else to read them and note down the details.
  • Check on the label to see how long they will last once opened.
  • Keep them out of the reach or sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Some medication should be stored in the fridge once opened.
  • Put it on a top shelf – especially when children are nearby.
  • Don’t use the medication if it’s out of date.

Emergency situations

Nobody else should be allowed access to your medication as it can be dangerous in the wrong hands. It’s also essential that the dose is not exceeded even if you believe it’s needed. If you suspect that the dose has been accidentally exceeded, call the doctor or emergency services immediately.

If someone (especially a child) accidentally takes some medication, you should contact emergency services or take them to A&E (accident and emergency) at a local hospital. If it’s a young child you may not be able to find out whether they’ve definitely taken it, but seek medical advice just in case.

Multiple medications

You may find that you’re managing many different medications and feel confused about what to take when. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about what planning tools are available. You could also try a medication planning app for your smartphone, which will alert you when it’s time for the next dose. Some of these have a free trial.

If there are any changes in condition or behaviour after new medication has been introduced, speak to the doctor or nurse as soon as possible.

If you need help, it’s vital that you ask your district nurse or Marie Curie Nurse, health assistant, or doctor.

Just In Case boxes

The NHS issues Just In Case boxes in England, Scotland and Wales for people who are ill and being cared for at home. These include medications and equipment for use in emergency situations. 

What’s in the Just In Case box

This includes medication for:

  • breathlessness
  • agitation
  • breakthrough pain

If you’re in any doubt about using the medication or whether the situation is an emergency, contact your healthcare assistant or nurse, or ring emergency services on 999.

For emergency medical supplies in Northern Ireland, speak to your district nurse or healthcare assistant.

External websites

NHS Choices   – medicines A-Z 

This page is for general information only. It's not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.

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