Catering to Family Caregivers

Day in and day out, patients walk through your pharmacy doors to find relief for whatever ails them or a family member. Whether it’s for a prescription fill or an over-the-counter remedy, they know they’re in the right place.

As their community pharmacist, you know many of your patients need assistance from a caregiver. Some are even caregivers themselves and are often family members or friends without any previous healthcare training. Yet, they’re responsible for a loved one’s care, and it’s stressful and overwhelming. The ‘sandwich generation’ is now managing their loved ones’ medications, keeping track of refills, daily regimens, and dietary restrictions, in addition to taking care of their own children.

Your pharmacy can help ease their minds and help them through the transition. Talk to caregivers about their situation and listen actively. Let them know they’re heard, and that you understand. Then, educate them about the medical condition, medication, services, and products they need to know about to properly care for their loved one.

You can advise caregivers on how they can best:

  • Manage their emotions
  • Find time for themselves
  • Balance work and caregiving
  • Manage incontinence
  • Properly lift patients
  • Talk with physicians and encourage them to ask questions
  • Assist the family in choosing a nursing home or community care center
  • Provide correct end-of-life options for the family
  • Find government financial aid and money management options

You’ll also want to give them information and connections that can help them long term, such as the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

“Independent pharmacies can serve as beacons of support in this situation by delivering three essentials: empathy, availability, and trustworthiness,” said Dave Wendland, Vice President, Strategic Relations at HRG (Hamacher Resource Group). “They must be positioned to cater to the needs of that individual requiring care. But let’s not forget the needs of the caregivers themselves. Pharmacists need to be attuned to the caregivers’ questions.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of caregivers increased from 43.5 million in 2015 to about 53 million in 2020, or more than 1 in 5 Americans. However, because not all unpaid caregivers assist seniors, the data applies to caregivers of all adults. This includes younger adults with physical or mental disabilities.

Who are your caregivers providing care for?

  • 41% Parent
  • 29% Special-needs child
  • 20% Someone else
  • 18% Spouse/Partner


Caregivers’ daily lives can get extremely overwhelming. But as their pharmacist, you can help them by making it easier to manage their loved one’s care and needs.

Here’s how:

Administering their medication

Administering the proper dosage of the medication at the correct time is a very important part of achieving desirable health outcomes. You have a positive impact just by educating both the patients and caregivers on the proper way to take medications. For instance, you can explain the appropriate time to take each medication and explain any potentially dangerous or adverse interactions.

You can also educate caregivers on how to administer drugs via syringe, the correct way to measure liquid medications, and how to use glucose meters or properly take blood samples.

Stop potentially dangerous interactions

It can be a challenge when your patients are taking multiple medications. It’s challenging for the caretaker to keep track of what time each medication needs to be given, while also looking out for potentially dangerous drug interactions. Some caregivers may not be aware that over-the-counter (OTC) medications can have serious interactions or contraindications with prescription drugs. Encourage caregivers to put all the medications their patient is currently taking, both prescription and over the counter, and bring them to your pharmacy for you to review.

“Pharmacists can look at the full regimen of prescriptions and ask the right questions, such as, ‘Is your mom feeling dizzy? Is she feeling tired or anxious? Let me talk to the physician on your behalf and see if we can adjust her medications or try a different dose,’” Wendland said.

Once caregivers feel comfortable talking with you, word will get out that your pharmacy is not only knowledgeable, but also caring. This leads to an overall better experience for both the patient and the caregiver, and this is good for business.

Keep them informed of medication costs

When you find cost-saving opportunities that your patients are eligible to receive, let them know. It may include information about Medicare Part D programs, or advice about switching to a generic version of a prescription medication.

Adjust medication

If one of your patients is transitioning from a healthcare facility to home, it can be a challenge to keep medications in order. However, the transition can be a success by combining your know-how and a caregiver’s proximity. Caregivers spend a lot more time with the patient, so they can help monitor the patient for any complications or reactions to medication, as well.

Help organize medications

Recommend pill sorters for caregivers to organize their patient’s medication. By arranging medication, caregivers can be sure their patient is adhering to their treatment schedule. Show them the best type of pill sorter based on the patient’s drug regimen.

Introduce them to helpful technology

Advancements in technology play a large role in modern caregiving. Telemedicine, mobile health apps, and assistive devices are a huge part of modern caregiving. These tools also offer remote monitoring and real-time updates, which give caregivers and their patients peace of mind.

“I strongly urge having a dedicated area of your website where a caregiver can go. This gives them the opportunity to bridge endless aisles of product that you may not have room for in your pharmacy, but you know your drug wholesaler carries,” Wendland said.

Check in regularly on their mental health

Caregiving is challenging. It’s hard work, and the emotional and psychological demands build up over time. Keep tabs on the caregivers and offer them mental health screening in your pharmacy. Follow up by giving them information on mental health support, such as local peer groups or counseling. There are also community-based networks where caregivers share resources and offer mutual support.

Advise them on adherence programs

Provide tips on how to improve a patient’s adherence, such as setting alarms with reminders about medication or making a daily schedule with dosing times and instructions. Have the caregivers keep a log to track adherence. This will help you monitor the patient’s treatment.

Give tips to make it easier

Show caregivers how they can lighten their load with products and services you offer in your pharmacy, such as:

  • Compliance packaging
  • Free delivery
  • Lift-assist devices and chairs
  • Grab bars and raised toilet seats

Host sessions at your pharmacy

Consider hosting a learning session in your pharmacy on topics that will help make caregiving easier (i.e. how to keep family medical records, choosing a nursing home, or legal and estate planning issues).

“Have an open house. Invite caregivers in and give them a tour of the store. Show the products you have available. Maybe bring in a gerontologist to speak one evening and talk about aging,” Wendland said. “If you have an electronic billboard outside your pharmacy, try a message that says, ‘We understand family caregiving. Ask us how we can help.’ Everyone wants to make sure they’re doing the right thing when it comes to caregiving.”

Offer products caregivers need

Make caregivers’ lives much easier by setting up your pharmacy as their one-stop shop for all their caregiver needs. Offer an assortment of home-health products in your pharmacy’s front end.

Stock products that will make life easier and more manageable at home, including:

  • Bathroom safety devices
  • Bed rails
  • Canes
  • Compression socks
  • Diabetes care
  • Home diagnostic equipment
  • Incontinence products
  • Magnifiers
  • Oral rinse for dry mouth
  • Pill boxes
  • Walkers
  • Wheelchairs

“It’s important to have affordable solutions, but vetted solutions that are quality,” Wendland said. “If you buy a $10 cane, but it doesn’t offer the support needed, that’s not a good $10 spent. But if you have a $20 cane that you have confidence in, put a ‘pharmacist recommends’ sign on that cane. Feature the right products at the right price and build integrity with caregivers.”

During every conversation you have with caregivers, remember that they’re patients, too, and need your personal care and support. Be encouraging and lift them up. Most of all, make sure they keep up with their own physical and mental health needs.

Additional Organizations That Support Caregivers

Having multiple places to turn to for help is important for those who are caring for loved ones. Below is the AARP’s list of organizations that support caregivers. Whether in person or online, your patients can find organizations that specialize in caregiver support.

Local programs:

Eldercare Locator

This U.S. government site can connect you with your local Area Agency on Aging, where you can find resources in your community to help you deal with the challenges you’re facing.

Community Resource Finder

This is an online database from AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association where you can find a range of programs and services in your area.

Family Caregiver Alliance

This site can help you locate caregiver resources in your state.

Support Groups

If a patient of yours is feeling alone in the struggle of caregiving, talking with other family caregivers can help them lift their spirits and think through solutions to any problems they may be experiencing. Support groups are also helpful and can often be found through a local hospital or church. There is also a website called Well Spouse Association that coordinates a national network of groups for spousal caregivers.

Dementia-Specific Care

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be worrisome and overwhelming. If a patient in your pharmacy is struggling with this, pass along the Alzheimer’s Association website locator for support groups in your area.

Online Forums

For caregivers, AARP has an online caregiving forum and a Facebook discussion group, the AARP Family Caregivers Discussion Group (, where your caregivers can meet others and share information and advice.

The Impact of Caregiving

  • In a 2023 report, AARP found that 40 percent of all caregivers cite the emotional stress of juggling caregiving and working as their biggest challenge.
  • More than half of caregivers find that caregiving makes it hard to take care of their own mental health.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 caregivers say they never or rarely relax.
  • 40% say caregiving makes them feel alone.

(American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Report, 2023)

Family Caregivers and Mental Health

  • More than a third of family caregivers report emotional stress that accompanies caring for an adult loved one.
  • Four in 10 caregivers rarely or never feel relaxed.
  • More than half (56%) of caregivers report that the role makes it difficult for them to care for their own mental health.
  • 41% report being lonely.
  • Caregivers between the ages of 18-34 were found to be most likely to suffer from anxiety as a result of caregiving.
  • Caregivers 65 and older reported the lowest levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Women of all ages providing care reported higher levels of stress and worry than men providing care.
  • 82% of caregivers say the role gives them a sense of purpose in life.
  • 81% of caregivers say it makes them feel good about themselves.

(AARP Survey, 2023)

From the Magazine

This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.

More articles from the March 2024 issue:

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