Tools and Tricks for Helping Kids Stay on Track of Medications and Other Health Needs While Away from Home
The transition to college and campus life can often feel abrupt for teens freshly graduating from high school. Beyond adjusting to challenging college curriculums, teens need to adapt and develop the self-management skills needed to thrive on their own.
And while this young adulthood brings feelings of enthusiastic independence among students, it is often, and naturally, accompanied by some trepidation for parents.
This is especially true for college freshmen, who for the first time are becoming responsible for their own health care as the natural progression from pediatrician to primary care provider (PCP) takes place. However, as many as 45% of college kids don’t have a PCP, so routine check-ins about the medications they may be on and the responsibility of taking them as prescribed falls squarely on the student’s shoulders.
How Parents Can Help Teens Become More Health Independent
As parents help their teens navigate this transition, it cannot be emphasized enough the importance of their child staying on track with prescribed medications and being aware of their overall health and well-being.
Not taking medications as prescribed, also called non-adherence, can pose serious health risks for many people. In fact, a study on the experiences of students with ADHD found that nearly 50% of young adults who embark on their college careers became non-adherent to their medication regimen.
Adding another level of complexity to the mix are the confidentiality rules that often come into play for parents as their children age out of their ability to have exclusive control over their teens’ medical information and records.
Preparing your child and developing a medication management game plan is the best thing you can do–and starting that plan in those last years of high school is critical to ensuring your teen is ready to take on more responsibility for their health and wellness.
Six Tips to Help Your Teens Manage Their Health and Wellness
To assist families in creating a medication management plan that will work, Pharmacist Susan Peppers of the Express Scripts Pharmacy offers these six tips:
• Phase-out Parental Reminders and Home-based Resources: Work with your teen to phase out resources and parental reminders that won’t be readily available once campus life begins. Your pharmacist can recommend medication adherence tools — digital or otherwise — that work best for students. It’s important to begin this process early, so consider starting this phasing out stage when your student is ready—that may be while in their last year of high school or even at a younger age if you and your doctor think they are ready.
• Transition with a Mission: A reliable transition plan is key to successful medication adherence. Assist your child in evaluating their weekly schedule and the daily changes that will break up the routine. This would include class schedules, extra-curricular activities such as clubs, sports, and social gatherings, as well as school breaks.
• Prescribing a Plan: If your child takes medication regularly, it is important to make sure they have enough on hand and that they know how and where to get needed prescription refills. Find the best and most accessible pharmacy near your child’s location and provide that information to their prescribing health provider. You can also set up automatic refills that get delivered to your student’s campus address using a service such as Express Scripts Pharmacy.
• Alcohol and Medication May Not Mix: Alcohol usage is often prevalent on college campuses, even among students who are underage. Do your due diligence around researching potential adverse interactions alcohol can have with their prescription drugs and educate your child on the dangers of mixing alcohol with their medications, as well as other health and safety risks associated with drinking.
• Campus Care – Getting School Savvy: Well before the semester starts, work with the college or university and your student to understand the various campus health service resources that are available to them and when they are open, both for physical and mental health wellbeing. Be sure they know how to schedule an appointment if they are sick, or need mental health services including counseling or therapy. Since many campus health service resources are closed on weekends, it’s also critical to research urgent care options should your child be in need of prompt care.
• Investigate virtual options: Make sure your child knows where to call if they have questions about their medications or any adverse effects they may be feeling. Consider finding a pharmacy that has 24/7 direct access to a pharmacist. There are also great options for telehealth services should your child need to see a doctor when the school’s health facilities are not open or appointments are not available in a timely manner, (such as MDLIVE.) Their physicians can provide chronic care management and write temporary prescription renewals should your child run out of medication, all from the convenience of your child’s dorm room.
As your teen enters this exciting new phase of life, take steps to ensure they have everything they need to stay happy and healthy. I f you put a plan that will allow them to stay on top of their prescription drug regimen today, they will be prepared when they live on their own
This post was contributed by Susan Peppers, BSPh, R.Ph, Vice President, Pharmacy Practice. Susan is responsible for Pharmacy Practice, Patient Consultation, and Clinical Programs at Express Scripts Pharmacy. Susan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy from Ohio Northern University..