For Any Cancer Diagnosis
Q. How can I help my 75-year-old mother organize the different pills she takes for her cancer and other numerous health problems?
Health care professionals refer to taking your pills on schedule as adherence. Having more than one illness makes taking pills harder. Having multiple conditions such as cancer, heart disease, or arthritis increases the number of prescription medications. Older adults may forget to take their many medications and may have difficulty opening pill bottles.
Your mother’s health care team, her pharmacist, and you can come up with a practical pill-taking plan. You and your mother might want to schedule time with your mother’s oncologist or the oncology nurse in the doctor’s office to determine:
- when the pills should be taken
- whether any of the pills interact with each other and should not taken at the same time
- which pills should be taken on an empty stomach or with food
- how often each pill needs to be taken
- what to do if she misses a dose
The health care team can make a schedule for her pill taking, noting the hour of the day each pill should be taken and how best to take each pill. Once you have had this conversation, there are a number of tips to support your mother:
- The pharmacist can help you organize your mother’s pills in a pill-sorting box. Some even come with built in alarms.
- Encourage your mother to make pill taking part of her daily routine.
- Enlist help if your mother needs someone to refill her pill-sorting box and remind her to take her pills.
For more information, CancerCare offers a fact sheet, “The Importance of Taking Your Pills on Schedule” and a podcast, Understanding Adherence: The Importance of Taking Your Pills on Schedule.
CancerCare’s professional oncology social workers are available to provide counseling and practical help—call us at 800-813-HOPE (4673).
Q. I can't afford to pay for my cancer medication. Is there help to pay for them?
The cost of your cancer medication may be a barrier to adherence or taking your pills on schedule. Because of these costs, some patients try to stretch out their supply of pills. Instead of taking them as the doctor prescribed, they take them every other day so that they do not run out of their pills so quickly. If you find yourself thinking of doing this or you are doing this, please speak with your doctor to get financial help. It is very important that you take your pills the way your doctor prescribed them. This way you will get the best results from your treatment.
There are organizations that help cancer patients with the costs of their pills. Co-payment organizations and patient assistance programs help individuals who cannot afford their medications. The following resources may be able to help you:
The website of the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (CFAC) has a searchable database of national and regional organizations that provide financial assistance and other services for people with cancer.
NeedyMeds helps patients without prescription coverage by providing information about patient assistance programs that provide prescription medications at no cost.
CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation (866-552-6729) provides co-payment assistance to patients who meet their guidelines as well as guidance and referrals for additional help.
Patient Access Network (866-316-7263) assists patients who cannot access the treatments they need because of out-of-pocket health care costs like deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance.
Patient Advocate Foundation (800-532-5274) offers a co-payment relief program and seeks to ensure patients’ access to care.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance (888-477-2669) matches patients to programs offering free or low-cost prescription medicines.
And finally, CancerCare’s professional oncology social workers can also refer patients for financial assistance and to organizations that offer free counseling services.