Monday, October 4, 2010

Too Many Supplements

So, I mentioned Mom's... umm... penchant for taking supplements.

When I first moved home, I watched her struggle with them every morning. (She had a stroke in January, and ordinary tasks have become increasingly difficult for her.) She'd pick up a bottle, look at it, look at the cups she was putting them in to determine which one it was supposed to go in, and then she'd open the bottle, forget which one she had, look at the label, look back at the cups, and on and on, until finally she got one out and dropped it in a cup. This process would go on, often for 60-90 minutes or longer. When I finally couldn't take it anymore, I suggested that I do them for her, and use pill boxes to put out a week's supply at a time.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

We sat down with my computer, and she pulled box after box of pills out of the cupboard. It was like a Volkswagen filled with clowns! An hour and a half later, I had a spreadsheet with a list of over 50 different pills, with six columns to differentiate when and by whom they should be taken! And really, her system was actually even more complicated than that, but I insisted that we "simplify" it. One of the biggest problems was finding pill boxes that would hold everything--the ones I found were called Triple XL! Even then, it sometimes felt like the cartoon character sitting on the overfull suitcase to get it shut.

I realized that this couldn't possibly be good for them. I mean, there were days she couldn't finish eating her breakfast, because her stomach was too full of pills and the water she had to drink to get them down! Between that many supplements and all the prescription medications they take, the number of possible bad interactions was monumental. I tried to research it online, but it just wasn't something I could accomplish on my own.

It was time to involve professionals.

I started with our chiropractor. He agreed that they were taking too many supplements, and recommended finding out if the same ingredient was in more than one of the supplements and could be eliminated. So, back to my spreadsheet. I added rows and typed each ingredient/dose in a new column, copying and pasting the supplement name in each new row so that I could identify which supplement each ingredient was from. That took awhile! (I finally realized I could find most of the ingredient lists online and copy and paste. Wish I'd thought of that sooner.) Then, I was able to alphabetize the ingredients and find out which supplements overlapped.

Of course, when I brought that [9-page] report to the chiropractor, he joined me in my state of overwhelmedness. He suggested that I check with her regular doctor, and if that didn't work, he knows a doctor who specializes in homeopathy, and would have referred us to him.

When we talked to Mom's regular doctor, she too was overwhelmed, and she too referred us on. This time, it was to a PharmD--a doctor of pharmacy.

The PharmD was wonderful! She was knowledgeable, thorough, compassionate, firm, and got that list of 50-some supplements down to a more manageable 26! She looked at all the overlap of ingredients and cut out a bunch. She cut out items that had a sufficient amount in their multi-vitamin. She took out a bunch of "hoax" pills, things that have no studies proving that they do what their sellers claim. And she took out a bunch of pills Mom was taking for energy and weight loss. Those pills were bad for her heart, and could be what caused at least her second stroke (which happened in July), if not the first one.

So now, I still do all their pills, but I no longer have to sit on the suitcase to get it shut.

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