If someone you love is taking warfarin (an anticoagulant drug commonly prescribed to prevent blood clots from forming or growing larger in a person’s blood and blood vessels), you may suddenly find yourself in the role of caregiver. People on warfarin require regular testing to ensure that the amount of warfarin in their blood remains within a prescribed range. As a result, caregivers play an important role in helping to keep the patient safe and healthy by confirming they test their blood regularly. The following tips and considerations can help make your role easier as you provide care and support to a loved one taking warfarin.
Eliminate trips to the lab – test at home
If your loved one relies on you for transportation to the lab for regular blood tests, know that there is an easier way to monitor his or her INR. Home testing services such as Alere Home Monitoring provide the training and equipment that will allow a patient or their caregiver to perform a test in the comfort of their own home. They can even perform a test wherever they happen to be travelling. Alere’s services include coordination with the patient’s doctors and insurance, making the testing process easy and convenient for everyone involved.
It can be dangerous for patients to not know their INR number or for them to fall out of range.
That’s why if your loved one forgets to test or does not report the results according to the frequency prescribed by his or her doctor, Alere Home Monitoring’s customer service representatives will reach out to remind them that the test results are due.
Know the warning signs
Regular INR monitoring according to the doctor-prescribed frequency will help your loved one avoid many of the risks associated with taking warfarin. However, in the event your loved one’s INR numbers become too high or low, it’s important for caregivers to be able to recognize the warning signs and contact a health provider immediately.
The FDA recommends seeking medical attention immediately if a warfarin patient experiences any of the following situations:
- Sudden, unexpected bleeding (e.g. nosebleeds)
- Bleeding from an injury that you are unable to stop
- Blood in urine
- Blood in bowel movement (stool)
- Severe stomach pain
- Vomiting blood
- Bruising on the skin for no apparent reason
- Leg pain
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion, difficulty with speaking or understanding speech
- Weakness or numbness of the face, arms or legs
- Sudden vision loss
- Sudden, severe headache
- Trouble with walking, dizziness or loss of balance/coordination
- INR results >4.5 without signs or symptoms of bleeding
Keep food choices consistent
Because some foods and beverages can alter the effectiveness of warfarin, keeping a consistent healthy diet allows your loved one’s doctor to adjust his or her warfarin dose accordingly. As a caregiver, you can help track food choices and provide assistance preparing healthy, well-balanced meals. Use a Vitamin K finder to learn which foods are more likely to affect your loved one’s INR.
Track all medications
In addition to food and beverage, medications can also interact with warfarin and alter its effectiveness. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Your loved one’s doctor should be aware of every type of medication he or she is taking. Use this printable medication tracker to help your loved one keep an updated list to share with the doctor. This is also an important document to have handy in the event your loved one experiences a medical emergency.
It is invaluable for patients on warfarin to have the support of a loved one who is knowledgeable about their medical history. Between the help of family caregivers and professional healthcare services like Alere Home Monitoring, your loved one will be able to manage their warfarin treatment successfully and enjoy a healthy, independent lifestyle.