Topic 5: Types of Medications and the MAR

Guide on Medication Types for Caregivers

Introduction to Medication Forms

In caregiving, particularly in medication assistance, comprehending the various forms of medications is crucial. These forms are tailored for specific routes of administration and to address diverse health conditions. For support workers, a deep understanding of these forms ensures they can provide safe, effective, and empathetic care.

Overview of Common Medication Types

Let’s delve deeper into these medication types:

  • Tablets:
    • Subtypes: Immediate-release, extended-release, chewable, sublingual.
    • Usage Tips: Be aware of special instructions like taking with food or water. Some tablets should not be crushed or split.
    • Common Examples: Paracetamol, aspirin.
  • Capsules:
    • Subtypes: Hard-shelled, soft-gelled.
    • Special Considerations: Easier to swallow but should not be opened or crushed unless advised.
    • Typical Uses: Vitamins, certain antibiotics like amoxicillin.
  • Topicals:
    • Varieties: Creams, ointments, gels, patches.
    • Application Tips: Use as directed, often applied to clean, dry skin. Some require protective gloves for application.
    • Frequent Uses: Steroid creams, transdermal patches for pain management.
  • Injectables:
    • Forms: Intravenous (IV), intramuscular (IM), subcutaneous.
    • Handling Instructions: Requires training for proper administration techniques.
    • Key Medications: Insulin, certain vaccines, emergency medications like epinephrine.

National Library of Medicine, Molecules (October 26, 2021), Controlled Drug Delivery Systems: Current Status and Future Directions

What is the MAR

The MAR, or Medication Administration Record, is a legal document. It includes all medications and administration times for each client.

The MAR runs month to month. This means a new MAR is started on the 1st day of every month. The Pharmacy will give the residence a new MAR at the end of each month so you can begin a new one. When the MAR arrives, it will have to be checked for accuracy against the previous one. The check is completed by your supervisor or designate. It is important to ensure all meds are accurate for dosage, time and that there are no extra or forgotten medications.

Check One – Medication is received from the pharmacy is checked against the MAR by the supervisor
Check Two – The medication is checked against the MAR by the staff who will be administering medications that day.
Check Three – When administering medications, staff members will check it against the MAR before giving it to the client.

Checking Medication Steps

When medication is received from the pharmacy, it will need to be checked against the MAR and recorded on the Med Check in and Distribution Form by the supervisor. The supervisor will provide 1 week supply of medications for each client. This will need to be checked again by the staff members assigned to administer medications for that day, and sign off on the

Understanding Types of Medications: A Guide for Caregivers

Welcome to this comprehensive section designed to deepen your knowledge about various medication forms and their appropriate administration. As a caregiver, recognizing the differences between medication types is crucial for providing safe and effective care. Let’s dive into the details.


Tablets are a common form of medication, usually taken orally. They come in different shapes and sizes, and understanding their unique characteristics is essential.

  • Coated vs. Uncoated Tablets: Coated tablets have a thin layer that aids in swallowing and can protect your stomach lining. Uncoated tablets, on the other hand, may be broken or crushed if needed, but always check if this is safe for the specific medication.
  • Chewable Tablets: These are designed to be chewed before swallowing and are often flavored. They’re especially useful for children or individuals who have difficulty swallowing pills.
  • Sublingual Tablets: Placed under the tongue, these tablets dissolve and absorb directly into the bloodstream, offering a faster onset of action.

National Library of Medicine, Molecules (October 26, 2021), Controlled Drug Delivery Systems: Current Status and Future Directions

Practical Tip: Swallowing Tablets

If you’re assisting someone who struggles with swallowing tablets, encourage them to sit upright, take a sip of water first, place the tablet on the tongue, and then drink more water. Swallowing with a ‘pop bottle’ or ‘lean forward’ method can also be effective for certain types of pills.

Capsules: The Encapsulated Medication

Capsules consist of medication enclosed in a gelatin shell. They are favored for their ease of swallowing and extended-release properties.

  • Hard vs. Soft Gel Capsules: Hard gel capsules are more common and contain dry, powdered ingredients, while soft gels contain oils and are used for fat-soluble medicines.
  • Storing Capsules: Keep capsules in a cool, dry place. Moisture and heat can alter their effectiveness.

BCcampus Open Publishing (n.d.), 6.3 Administering Medications by Mouth and Gastric Tube.

Topical Medications: Direct Application for Targeted Relief

Topical medications are applied directly to the skin or specific areas of the body. They’re used for localized treatment.

  • Creams and Lotions: Ideal for moist or weepy skin conditions due to their water content.
  • Gels: Clear and quick-drying, they are perfect for hairy areas or when a cosmetic appearance is desired.
  • Patches: Provide a steady, controlled dose of medication through the skin over time.

BCcampus Open Publishing (n.d.), 6.7 Administering Topical Medications.

Technique Matters: When applying topical medications, always wear gloves to prevent absorption through your skin. Apply a thin layer, covering the entire affected area, and avoid contact with eyes and mouth unless the medication is intended for these areas.

BCIT, 2015; Lilley et al., 2011; Perry et al., 2014.

Injectable Medications: Fast-Acting and Efficient

Injectable medications deliver drugs directly into the body’s tissues. They are used when an immediate effect is required or oral administration is not suitable.

  • Types of Injections:
    • Intradermal: Just under the skin, often used for allergy tests.
    • Subcutaneous: Into the fatty layer beneath the skin, like insulin injections.
    • Intramuscular: Deep into a muscle, ensuring rapid absorption.
    • Intravenous: Directly into a vein, providing immediate effects.

Safe Injection Practices:

It’s critical to follow proper injection techniques to ensure safety and efficacy. Use alcohol swabs to clean the injection site, and never reuse needles. Dispose of used needles and syringes safely in a sharps container.


National Library of Medicine, Molecules (October 26, 2021), Controlled Drug Delivery Systems: Current Status and Future Directions, retrieved from
BCIT, 2015; Lilley et al., 2011; Perry et al., 2014
BCcampus Open Publishing (n.d.), 6.3 Administering Medications by Mouth and Gastric Tube, retrieved from
BCcampus Open Publishing (n.d.), 6.7 Administering Topical Medications, retrieved from

Real-World Scenario: Managing Medications

Consider Mr. Gray, who has a combination of oral and injectable medications. He is hesitant about his insulin injections and prefers oral medications. Here, your role is to educate Mr. Gray about the necessity of each medication form. Explain how insulin injections work more effectively for his condition than oral medication. Remember, patient understanding and cooperation are vital in medication management.


Understanding the types of medications is a fundamental aspect of caregiving. This knowledge ensures that you can administer medications safely and effectively, tailoring your approach to each patient’s unique needs. Always keep learning and stay informed about new medication types and techniques to enhance your caregiving skills.