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Medicines can often be used to reduce or get rid of unpleasant symptoms.
If you’re finding medicines difficult to take, speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist as an alternative may be available. Some medicines can be bought over the counter, for example medicines for sleeplessness|, coughs| and itchy skin|. Always ask your doctor and pharmacist for advice before you buy over-the-counter remedies. It will help the pharmacist if you take a list of any other medicines you’re taking.
Medicines to help control symptoms can be taken in different ways. Many are taken as tablets or capsules, and liquid forms of many drugs are available for people who find tablets hard to swallow. Other ways of taking medications include injections, suppositories (which are inserted into the back passage) and skin patches.
Many pharmacies now offer free home delivery of prescription medicines.
If medicines such as painkillers and anti-sickness medicines are difficult for you to swallow, your doctor or nurse may suggest that you have these or similar drugs infused (pumped slowly under the skin) using a small portable pump called a syringe driver. A syringe containing the medicines is put into the driver and attached via a tube to a fine needle placed under the skin (subcutaneously). A small dose of the drug is released at a constant rate for as long as you need it. A nurse will replace the syringe every 24 hours and care for the dressing that holds the needle in place.
If you’re taking several different drugs, you may find it helpful to draw up a chart that lists:
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can help you with this, or they may be able to give you a chart. Make sure the chart has space for you to tick off each dose as you take it. You may find it easier to have your drugs arranged by the pharmacist or nurse in a container called a pill reminder or dosette box, labelled with the times to take them. Then, at any time during the day, you can check that you’re up to date.
The aim is to make things as simple as possible. If you find that remembering to take medicines several times a day is difficult, talk to your doctor. There may be other forms of the same drug that have the same effect, but that don’t need to be taken so often. You may also want to ask your doctor or nurse whether it’s possible for you to take all your drugs at the same time each day.
You may find it useful to keep a diary of how well your pain| and other symptoms| are being controlled. There is a link below to a symptom diary that you can print off and use. This can also help your medical team. For example, they’ll be able to see whether the doses of any of your drugs need changing. If you photocopy the diary before you fill it in, you can use it again as often as you need to. You can also use it to keep a record of all your different symptoms.
If you don’t want to bother with a full diary, just make a note if your pain or other symptoms come back before your next dose of medicine is due, and record when you need to take extra doses.
If you find your symptoms are difficult to treat, your doctor may refer you to a specialist who deals with symptom control or to a palliative care clinic|.
You can print this off and use it to keep a record of your symptoms
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2011
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