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Detecting Medication Side Effects

Supports coordinators have a valuable role in the health care team. As non-clinicians, supports coordinators are not expected to know all of the side effects of various medications. However, some knowledge about medications and their potential side effects is necessary to help individuals access needed services.

This information guide provides a strategy that will help supports coordinators decide if a change in an individual’s behavior or physical condition may be the side effect of a medication.

Who might be experiencing medication side effects?
Anyone who is taking medication, but especially:

    • People on multiple medications
    • People with changes in behavior
    • People with changes in physical conditions

What might cause medication side effects?
Any medication can produce side effects, but pay special attention to:

    • Interactions with other drugs
    • Interactions with over-the-counter drugs
    • Interactions with food
    • Interactions with "natural" supplements

When might medication side effects occur?
Side effects can occur at any time, but pay special attention when:

    • An individual is starting a new medication
    • An individual is changing the dose of a medication
    • An individual is suffering from an additional illness (e.g., cold)

Where can supports coordinators get more information about medication side effects?

    • Pharmacists
    • Drug references (e.g., books, online)
    • Prescribing practitioners
    • Health care quality units (HCQU)

Why should a supports coordinator be concerned about medication side effects?
Side effects caused by medications can:

    • Be annoying and affect everyday functioning
    • Be dangerous and affect health and safety

HOW should a supports coordinator proceed if an individual exhibits a change in behavior or physical condition that may be due to a medication side effect?

    • Assist individuals and caregivers in referring questions/concerns to the prescribing physician or the primary care practitioner