How to Counsel Friends and Family

Counseling friends and relatives always has the potential to be difficult.

Pharmacists are trained to counsel patients and provide them with understandable drug information. If you are like me, however, then you find it extremely frustrating to counsel your friends and relatives.

When discussing drug therapy with someone who changed your diapers when you were a baby, what should you do? Proceed with caution and be tactful.

You may know people who make every excuse imaginable to avoid taking their medication. It doesn’t matter if there is a strong, clinical need for the medication; they are dead set against taking it.

Recently, I’ve been facing this situation with a relative. This person was recently diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia and prescribed a statin.

In speaking with this relative, I learned that he still hadn’t filled his statin a week after it was prescribed. The first thing he did after receiving the prescription was to search the Internet for reasons not to take a statin.

As we debated this, I quickly realized that chiding or lecturing him would not be effective. In fact, discussing the medication at all wasn’t effective, as he was too resistant to taking it.

The successful approach was focusing on the consequences of leaving the hypercholesterolemia untreated. It is easy for patients to see a potential laundry list of side effects for each medication without considering the benefits. In this case, the prescriber didn’t clearly explain how taking a statin would be a key step in avoiding a myocardial infarction (MI) or stroke.

I reminded my relative of other people he knew who had experienced strokes or MI, as well as the difficulties these people have encountered.

Counseling friends and relatives always has the potential to be difficult. The next time you encounter this situation, take the clinical high ground. Appeal to them as a caring health care provider, and focus on the outcomes.