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10 Ways to Save Money on Your Medications You Probably Don’t Know About

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My name is Dr. Jen- I am a Doctor of Pharmacy, patient advocate, senior care pharmacist, mom, and extreme lover of good deals. I’ve spent the majority of my career in community pharmacy, and have seen the prices of medication truly skyrocket in the past 10 years. When it comes to saving money on medications, I’m sure you’ve heard the typical advice- take a generic. But there’s actually many more ways to save. As an insider, I’m sharing with you, 10 ways to save money on your medications, you’ve probably never thought of:

1. Find out if you are taking your medications properly

While this may seem like a silly question, inhalers and nose sprays only come with a certain amount of medication per actuation. To avoid losing any medication, you may need to shake your medication in order to get the maximum amount out of your device. Consult the package insert that came with your medication for specific instructions.
However, if you find you have trouble using your inhaler, consider asking your doctor for a spacer. Read more about spacers here (

2. Check the Blink Health Price
(Please note this is not a paid advertisement of any sort)

Blink Health is a fantastic company. I saved over 50% on one of my medications by using their app. It’s super easy to use. You pay Blink for your medication through the app or their website and they give you a member card. You show this card to the pharmacy by printing it or just showing the pharmacy your member card on your phone. They will enter the info from your member card into their computer like they would an insurance card, and you don’t pay anything at the pharmacy because you already paid the app. Some might say this is too good to be true, but I worked in a community pharmacy setting for many many years and know exactly how the billing process works.

I highly suggest going to or download the app to see what the Blink price is for your medication(s) before heading to the pharmacy. Once you are there you can compare the Blink price against the price with your insurance, if you have it. More than half of the most prescribed generic drugs in the U.S. cost less than $10 with Blink Health. Additionally, as of January 1, 2017, Blink has negotiated some terrific prices on insulin directly with the drug companies.

Furthermore, Blink can save you money on over-the-counter medications with a prescription from your doctor. For example, generic Allegra (fexofenadine) bought from the shelf can cost upwards of $20 for thirty tablets at your local drug store. But, by using Blink, those thirty tablets will only cost you $12.49 at the pharmacy. The monthly savings can really add up if you take multiple over-the-counter medications.

3. Have a Comprehensive Medication Review

Have your medication regimen reviewed by a pharmacist who is certified in medication therapy management. A comprehensive medication review identifies and eliminates medication-related problems. A few examples of these problems include changing medications you take that are too expensive with cheaper alternatives that work just as well. Additionally, a review can identify prescribing cascades- the process whereby the side effects of drugs are misdiagnosed as symptoms of another medical problem, resulting in further prescriptions being prescribed, further side effects, and unanticipated drug interactions.

In my practice I provide medication reviews specifically to seniors. They are extremely vulnerable to prescribing cascades because they take more prescriptions than the rest of the population. To locate a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist, such as myself, for a medication review click here

4. Contact the manufacturer or get a manufacturer coupon

If you are prescribed a brand name medication go to the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer any savings programs. Often these savings are in the form of a coupon that you can print out and take to the pharmacy.

Other manufacturers will offer patient assistance programs that you will need to qualify for. For example, I had a patient who needed an expensive arthritis medication injected in his knee, but his Medicare Part D prescription plan would not cover it. I told him to contact the manufacturer and see what they could do for him. The manufacturer ended up mailing the medication directly to his doctor and he had it injected in his knee at the doctor’s office at no cost to him.

5. Find out if there is an over-the-counter alternative to your prescription medications

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is an over-the-counter alternative to any of the medications you are taking. Many people take proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux and esophageal protection. But, PPIs can be purchased very inexpensively over-the-counter. For example, Protonix (pantoprazole) is one of the most popular PPIs prescribed by doctors. However, Prevacid (lansoprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), and Nexium (esomeprazole) are PPIs available over-the-counter at a much lower price that are just as effective. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about what dose you need to take to receive the equivalent dose of the PPI you already take.

6. Bring your prescription formulary with you to every doctor’s appointment

Go to your insurance company’s website and print out their prescription formulary. This is the list of medications they will pay for. If you have trouble finding it online, call the customer service number on the back of your prescription insurance card and have them mail it to you. Then show it to each doctor at each appointment when they are prescribing new medications or refilling old ones.
Your doctor wants you to be able to afford your medication so that you will take it. Do not be afraid to speak up. This is something I personally do, so I am not surprised at the cost when I go to my pharmacy to fill my prescriptions.

7. Ask for medication samples

Many doctors’ offices have closets filled to the brim of just sample of medications. When drug representatives stop by their office they will leave doctors with tons of free samples of the medications they represent. These drugs often just sit in a closet somewhere in the office. If your doctor is prescribing a new medication and you’re not sure if it’s going to work, ask your doctor for a sample so you don’t waste your money on the medication. In fact, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my OB had so many free samples of my prenatal vitamin that I never had to fill the prescription they gave me for it. I was able to go the whole pregnancy on just samples.

8. Cut your medication(s) in half

Click this link for a list of medications that cannot be crushed

If your medication is NOT on this list you might be able to have the doctor prescribe your medication at double the strength and then cut your medication in half to make it last longer. For example, if you take Lipitor (atorvastatin) 20mg, have your doctor prescribe 40mg for you with the directions: take 1 tablet every day. This way if your doctor prescribes 30 tablets it will last you 60 days, but you will only have to pay for 30 tablets.

9. Ask how long you have to take your medications

Believe it or not, when a pharmacy sends a refill request to your doctor, many doctors will approve a refill when you don’t actually need the medication anymore. I used to see this happen a lot in my pharmacy with potassium supplements. Too much potassium is a major concern as it can lead to dangerous heart arrhythmias. So it is important that you find out exactly how long you will need to take each medication in order to avoid dangerous side effects that can occur with prolonged medication use.

10. Ask your pharmacy if they price match

The pharmacy that I worked at price matched, but they did not advertise it. We were told only to offer it to patients at their request. With the exception of CVS, there are so many pharmacies that have the same policy mine did. So if you know the price of your medication is cheaper elsewhere or is on one of those “$4 Lists” just print out the information and bring it with you to your usual pharmacy. You want to fill all medications at one pharmacy to avoid any drug interactions and adverse effects that could occur when a pharmacy doesn’t have a list of all the medications you take.

I hope you are able to save money by using the tips in this article! As a Medication Expert I save my patients hundreds to thousands of dollars per year with Comprehensive Medication Reviews (aka Medication Check-ups). Learn more about this service by going to

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A Look Inside My Medicine Cabinet: The 5 Over-the-Counter Medications I keep on Hand to Stop Colds Before They Start

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Guess what? It’s that time of year again. The time when the weather starts to change and our noses start to run. As we gear up for another cough and cold season, I want you to be armed and ready. That’s why I’m giving you a look inside my medicine cabinet. Here is your exclusive guide on what you need to purchase from the cough and cold aisle:

#1- Non-Drowsy Antihistamine (Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin)

When my nose gets stuffed up or is running, the cause is either my allergies acting up or a cold coming on. However, the actual cause does not concern me because the treatment is the same- an antihistamine. This medication is so important because it “turns off the faucet.”  In other words, it stops my nose (the faucet) from running.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is also an antihistamine. But, I do not use it because it causes drowsiness and a handful of other unwanted side effects and adverse reactions. Seniors are the most vulnerable to these side effects and should not take Bendadryl.lⓇ

#2- Expectorant (Mucinex or guaifenesin- a generic ingredient found in store brands)

However, sometimes I don’t get to “turn off the faucet” in time and post-nasal drip will start to trickle down my throat and into my chest. This trickle quickly starts to build up into phlegm, causing me to cough. In order to get that phlegm out of my chest, I take an expectorant. Once I am able to cough up the phlegm, I am careful to take a look at it’s color. Green is a sign of bronchitis, while red is indicative of pneumonia, both of which warrant a call to my physician.

#3 Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)

Not “turning off the faucet” in time not only builds up phlegm in my chest, but it gives me a sore throat. In this case I take ibuprofen because it stops the pain, while also reducing the swelling and redness in my throat. Note: If you can not take ibuprofen, you can use sore throat lozenges or a numbing spray. Acetaminophen (Tylenol ) is also an option, but it does not do anything for the swelling and redness in the throat).

Moving on from my faucet analogy, I do get a head cold from time to time. With a head cold I also use ibuprofen, but for different reasons. In this case, l will be taking it for sinus pain and headache. Again, acetaminophen (Tylenol ) is an option here if you can not take ibuprofen.  

#4 Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or Phenylephrine (SudafedPE)

With a head cold, the root cause of my sinus pain and headache is pressure. In order to relieve this pressure, I will take pseudoephedrine. Under the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005, pseudoephedrine must be sold behind the pharmacy counter. After the passage of this act, drug companies began replacing the pseudophedrine in their products with phenylephrine.  This is also a decongestant that will help with sinus pressure and congestion. However, many of my patients, including myself, find that it does not work as well as pseudoephedrine. Additionally, both pseudophedrine and phenylephrine may increase your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, please consult your physician before taking.

#5 Simply SalineⓇ

Lastly, I use Simply Saline to clear my sinuses of snot, either from a head cold or allergies. Because this product is just saline, I can use it as many times a day as I want to. To use, I tilt my head to one side, while spraying Simple Saline into the opposite nostril. So if I tilt my head to the right, I will spray saline up the left nostril until I feel it run into my right sinus cavity. Then I repeat on the left side, spraying saline up my right nostril. I then blow my nose to get rid of of all the snot and congestion contributing to my sinus pressure and pain.

A trip down the cough and cold aisle can be confusing and frustrating, especially when you are not feeling well. There are so many products to choose from, and all of the products look the same. However, the above over-the-counter medications should be just about all you need to get through this upcoming cold season. Be sure to stock up on these items before cough and cold season starts so you can “turn off that faucet” as soon as it starts running.

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Why Mom and Dad Can’t Sleep and What You Can Do About It

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Because of multiple stressors in today’s society, many Americans take sleeping medications to fall and stay asleep. But did you know it’s actually the elderly population that is the most susceptible to sleep disorders?


The natural aging process causes your parent to spend less time in stages 3, 4 and REM sleep. This is important because these are the stages of sleep that are restorative and responsible for that well rested feeling. As a result, sleep for your parent tends to be lighter, causing more frequent awakenings.  Consequently, this interruptive sleep can cause excessive daytime fatigue, leading your parent to take a daytime nap.  This nap then makes it harder for them to then fall asleep at night, and a vicious cycle of inadequate sleep, compensated for by daytime naps occurs. But even if your parent doesn’t nap, such interruptive sleep has the potential to threaten their health “leading to cognitive impairment, resulting in an increased risk for accidents, falls, and the inability to carry out daily tasks.”

What can you do? Follow these 4 steps to get your parent back on track:

     1. Identify if your parent has any of the following medical conditions.

If these conditions aren’t being treated and/or are not under control, they can cause insomnia. Be sure to contact your parent’s doctor if you’re unsure.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Lung disease
  • Endocrine disorders (ex. Diabetes, Thyroid conditions)
  • Arthritis
  • Acute and chronic pain
  • Nocturia (waking up at night to urinate)
     2. Identify medications your parent is taking that can cause insomnia.

Check and see if your parent is taking any medications on this list (note: this is not a complete list). Contact their doctor about switching to a different medication or adjusting the dose.

  • Amantadine
  • Bupropion
  • Clonidine
  • Corticosteroids
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants (i.e. amphetamines)
  • Decongestants (i.e. Sudafed)
  • Levodopa
  • Lithium
  • Methyldopa
  • Propanolol
  • Selegiline
  • SSRI (anti-depressants)
  • Diuretics (HCTZ)
     3. Establish Sleep Hygiene Practices

Make sure your parent has a comfortable environment that is conducive to sleep. For example, ensure their room is dark enough, the room is at their preferred temperature, and the bed is comfortable for them.  Have them stick to a regular sleep schedule, limit day time naps, and avoid alcohol.  Be sure to restrict their intake of fluids before bedtime to lessen their use of the bathroom in the middle of the night.

     4. Practice Stimulus Control as Follows:
  1. Go to bed only when sleepy
  2. Use the bed and bedroom only for sleep. This means no reading, watching TV, or worrying in bed or the bedroom during the daytime or at night
  3. Get out of bed and go to another room when unable to fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes
  4. Repeat step 3 as often as necessary, either when trying to fall asleep or to get back to sleep
  5. Arise at the same time every morning, regardless of the amount of sleep obtained the previous night.

Additionally, having a Comprehensive Medication Review will ensure that any medication your parent takes that has a direct or indirect impact their sleep habits (or any other medical condition) will be identified and replaced with a medication that works just as well, but doesn’t negatively impact sleep quality.

Click Below to Learn More: 

Learn More

* Source- Geriatric Pharmacy Review: Pharmacotherapy for Psychiatric Conditions by Christopher Thomas, PharmD, BCPS, CGP

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As Seen on 6 Tips To Decreasing Stress By Becoming A More Confident Caregiver

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Many caregivers admit they are just “winging” this whole caregiving thing. And, you know what? That’s okay! There’s no formal training, manual or guidebook to show you how to navigate the everyday healthcare challenges, learn important information about medical conditions and medications, or develop the knowledge and know-how to recognize and prevent emergencies.

Researchers have reported caregivers feel more confident when they acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to provide appropriate care. As a result, they are able to decrease their stress levels because they’ve reduced the uncertainty surrounding the care they provide.

Follow these 6 tips, and you will be on your way to becoming a more confident and less stressed caregiver:

Take Your Parent to See a Geriatrician: Geriatric medicine is the specialty that focuses on the healthcare of older adults. Many age-related changes occur to our overall physiology as we get older, including how fast we metabolize medications. Many primary care doctors do not have advanced training as less than three percent of all medical students have taken just one course in geriatrics

Develop a Method for Coordinating Care Between Doctors: Most likely, your parent sees more than one doctor. While we like to think that doctors talk to one another when they care for the same patient, the reality is that they don’t. Due to a number of factors, doctors are pressed for time now more than ever. Inform and update each doctor about their current health status and all the medications they are taking in order to prevent miscommunication.

Have Your Parent’s Medication List Reviewed: If your parent is on four or more medications they need to have a Comprehensive Medication Review (CMR). A CMR identifies and eliminates medication-related problems. Such problems include side effects, high medication costs, drug interactions, doses that are too high/low, and use of medications for which there is no medical need. The goal of the review is to make sure the medications they are taking are as safe, effective, and affordable as possible.

Stay Alert During Transitions of Care Because they are Dangerous: Transitions of Care occur when your parent is admitted to or released from the hospital, either to go home or to a rehabilitation center, long term care, or skilled nursing facility. During these transitions, medical errors can occur, poor coordination of care can take place, and medications can be removed/added to their medication list in error.

Know the Warning Signs of Medical Emergencies: Often our caregiving journeys begin after an emergency or crisis takes place. But, you can prepare for emergencies by educating yourself on what to look out for. If your parent has high blood pressure or any heart problems you need to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke. If your parent has diabetes, you should also know the symptoms associated with both low and high blood sugar levels.

Practice Fall Prevention: Falls are the number one cause of injury in the senior population and are responsible for over 32,000 hip fractures per year. Inspect your parent’s home for areas of high fall risk, removing any tripping hazards like area rugs. Additionally, medications are the leading cause of falls. If your parent is taking medications that cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, tremor or sedation, their risk of falls grows even more.

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Simple Steps to Creating a Complete Medication List- Includes Template Download you can customize

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According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, the average 65-year-old takes approximately 14 medications per year, and this number increases to 18 for those ages 80 and above. So there’s no doubt the thought of creating a complete medication list for your parent seems like a daunting task. However, having a complete list is essential to preventing prescribing mistakes as it can be shared with all the doctors your parent sees and they can see exactly what each doctor is prescribing. I’ve made this guide for you that breaks down the process into 2 simple steps.

For each step below, please follow Step A if your parent lives within driving distance and you are able to go to their house, and follow Step B if you will be doing this long distance.

Step 1:

  1. Bring your parent’s medication to one simple location (i.e. the kitchen table).   Make sure to check the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom for prescription medication bottles.  Be sure to gather any over-the-counter medications they are using, as well as, vitamins and supplements.
  1. Since you will be doing this long distance, the best way to compile the list is to call your parent’s pharmacy.  Ask them to fax or mail you their medication record from the last 6 months.  By having 6 months worth of records, you will be able to notice if your parent has not refilled a medication that they should have.  We call this non-adherence, which I will go into more detail about in another post.  It is possible that the pharmacy may not release the records to you without consent from your parent because of HIPPA.  Don’t let this small barrier deter you from compiling their list.  Just ask the pharmacist what needs to be done so that you can obtain access. Also, be sure to ask your parents if they take any over-the-counter medications or vitamins/supplements.

Step 2:

  1. Use the medication list below to fill each prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, and vitamin/supplement.  Click the image of the table to download a copy in Word format. If a prescription label has both a brand and generic name on it, make sure to write down both.  Use the label to write down the directions for each medication, and also confirm with your parent that they are taking the medications according to directions.  Fill in the remainder of the list to the best of your ability.  Contact your parent’s pharmacist or prescriber if you have questions or there are a number of sections you have to leave blank (i.e. what the medication is for).
  1.  The medication record from the pharmacy should list all the information needed to fill out the list, with the exception of why they are taking it.  Call your parent and ask them why they are taking the medication, if you do not already know.  Also, be sure to add the over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements to this list.  As in section A above, contact the pharmacy or prescribing physician to fill in why your parent is taking this medication.

Medication List Template

Click Here to Download

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Preparing for a Doctor’s Appointment- Download these Templates to take with you!

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How often do you leave a doctor’s appointment with your parent feeling like all of your problems were addressed and your questions were answered?  Most likely your answer is never.  In today’s healthcare system, it has become impossible for doctors to spend the necessary amount of time needed with each patient.  There are now fewer primary care doctors than our nation needs, meaning doctors have more patients, and less time than ever before.  As a result, doctors are forced to shorten appointments in order to see all their patients. reported primary care physicians spend an average of only 7 minutes with each patient. So what can you do to make the most of each doctor’s appointment?  Follow the steps below and utilize the Pre-Appointment Questionnaire and Appointment Checklist for a smooth visit.

Step 1:

Use the Pre-Appointment Questionnaire to document your parent’s symptoms and/or concerns.  Have they been feeling dizzy lately?  Unusually tired, perhaps?  Write down what symptoms or other medical concerns they have been having, and what questions you would like answered by the doctor about these concerns.  If you have more symptoms/questions than space available on the form, please print multiple copies.

I have also included a comprehensive list of symptoms that may be of concern to the physician.  Please circle ALL symptoms your parent is experiencing even if you think the physician is already aware of them.

Additionally, make sure you make a copy for yourself once you’ve completed the questionnaire, so that you remember to address all of your concerns at the actual visit. 

Step 2:

Next- fax, mail, or drop off the Pre-Appointment Questionnaire to the doctor’s office so they have it before the visit.  Then the doctor will already know what concerns you have ahead of time, and can be prepared to answer the questions or order any necessary lab tests.  If you can’t get it to the doctor’s office before the appointment, give the questionnaire to the receptionist to give to the doctor as soon as you arrive and check-in for your appointment.

Step 3:

Use the Appointment Checklist to document the answers to your questions from the Pre-Appointment Questionnaire.   The checklist has space for the purpose of the visit, and if you don’t know why your parent has a visit, be sure to ask the doctor.

Next, after the doctor decides how to address each question/concern, document how they plan to solve it.  Check off if they plan to refer your parent to a specialist, prescribe medication, or send them for a test or procedure.  There is space to write down the name of the specialist and/or location for a test or procedure and how to make an appointment. If the doctor prescribed any new or refilled any medications, document this in the medication table.  Many doctors will electronically prescribe medications directly to your pharmacy, and do not give you a paper copy.  Even if this occurs, be sure to ask the doctor exactly which medications were sent to the pharmacy, the strength, directions, and reason you are taking each medication and document it in the medication table.

Lastly, there is a section for notes and a place to write down the date and time of your next appointment if needed.

Use these forms for each doctor’s appointment you have with all your parent’s doctors to ensure a smooth and productive visit, and to take control of their health.  Remember to bring your parents medication list to each visit, and if you don’t have a list, check out my how-to post: Simple Steps to Creating a Complete Medication List.

Click to Download & Print


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How to Help Your Parents Stay Safe With Their Medications

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You might be wondering if your parent is safe taking all those medications. This is a very common concern, but you don’t have to be a pharmacist or doctor to help them out. Gain peace of mind and take control of their health by following these 5 steps to help them stay safe with their medications.

  1. Have a Complete Medication list. 

It is very important to know what your parent is taking.  Make sure your list includes the name, strength, dose of the medication, how often it should be taken, why it’s being prescribed, who prescribed it, and any special instructions (i.e. take on an empty stomach).

If you do not have a medication list already, please see my post on Simple Steps to Creating a Complete Medication List for Your Parent.

  1. Check for Drug Interactions. 

There are several very reliable online tools you can use to check for drug interactions.  My favorite is from because it also lists food that that will interact with each medication. Check it out here. also has a great interaction checker. Just click here to be taken to their website.

  1.   Be Familiar with the Beers List 

The Beers List is a list of medications that should be prescribed with caution to those 65 years and older.  Medications on this list can have potentially dangerous side effects and/or be ineffective.  It is important to cross reference your parent’s medications with this list here. Read the Package Insert that comes with each prescription.  This is the leaflet that the pharmacy includes in the bag when you pick up the medication.  The package insert will contain information on important side effects to watch out for, directions on when to take the medication, important administration instructions, and what to do if your parent misses a dose.

  1. Follow a Daily Routine

Make sure your parent is following their daily medication routine and not missing any doses.  Be sure to use their medication list to establish when medications should be taken throughout the day.  Some medications may need to be taken in the morning, while others are given in the evening.  An example of this is cholesterol medication, which should be taken in the evening or before bedtime, as this is when your body actually makes cholesterol.  If your parent has trouble remembering when to take their medications, write out a reminder sheet, use a calendar, post-its, or even an alarm to help them remember.  It is important to choose a method that works best for your parent and stick with it.

  1. Have a Comprehensive Medication Review

Pharmacists are the medication experts of your parent’s healthcare team.  As a Senior Care pharmacist, I can provide your parent with a Comprehensive Medication Review to identify and eliminate any medication-related problem. Did you know any symptom in the elderly should be considered a medication side effect until proven otherwise? Click to read why medication reviews are so important and beneficial. 

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What is a Senior Care or Consultant Pharmacist?

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I’m often asked-what exactly is a Senior Care Pharmacist?  

The term is fairly new to most people, as integrated healthcare in our country is just in its infancy. Integrated healthcare occurs when a patient has a healthcare team that works together to optimize the patient’s overall health. Each member of the team has their own expertise, and the members will include, for example- a primary care doctor, specialists, a pharmacist, nurse, and physical therapist.  Pharmacists are the medication experts of the healthcare team, and a Consultant Pharmacist has advanced knowledge and training in the appropriate use of medication and promotion of healthy aging in older persons.  Click Here to read more about Consultant Pharmacists.

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9 Early Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

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 A registered nurse first assistant is a very specialized area of nursing. An RN first assistant assists the surgeon during a surgical procedure. The exact responsibilities vary depending on the type of surgery and the individual surgeon’s preference. But RN first assistants generally control bleeding, suture incisions and intervene during complications. For example, if a patient develops an abnormal heart rhythm during the procedure, an RN first assistant may administer medication to treat the condition.  

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Poses You Should Do Daily

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Good morning, oh in case i don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight. excuse me, i’d like to ask you a few questions. we’re going for a ride on the information super highway. Here she comes to wreck the day. here she comes to wreck the day. alrighty then kinda hot in these rhinos. we’re going for a ride on the information super highway.

Poses You Should Do Daily
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