Managing Medications for Older Adults | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 June 2012 13:57

Be knowledgeable about the drugs you take. Ask questions!

062812hf2BY LARRY POON

Special to the Times

As people age, they often find themselves having to deal with more health issues and increasing severity of their ailments. Many seniors are faced with having to take multiple medicines for a variety of conditions.

In the U.S., people aged 65 and older purchase 30 percent of all prescription drugs and 40 percent of over-the-counter medications. Furthermore, the average senior regularly takes four prescription medications and two over-the-counter medications at the same time.

The biggest issue facing older adults who take multiple medications is how those drugs interact within the body.

Because seniors tend to have slower metabolisms and organ functions, drugs tend to have a greater effect on them. Any resulting side effects can be uncomfortable and even life-threatening.

Taking drugs in combination is not necessarily a bad thing. Some conditions require multiple medications to treat them. However, if you do take more than one drug — including herbal remedies and supplements — the patient-doctor-pharmacist partnership is essential to minimizing adverse effects.

Here are some suggestions for managing multiple medications:

•Keep a medication log of all of the drugs you take, including the dosage and frequency. Share this information with your physicians and pharmacist. Many seniors see more than one doctor — make sure they all have current information on your medicines.

•Keep track of any side effects you experience when starting a new drug. Write down symptoms such as dizziness, constipation, diarrhea, sleep changes, blurred vision, mood changes or rashes.

•Be knowledgeable about the drugs you take. Ask questions! When you are prescribed a new medication, be sure that you know:

— The name of the medicine, both the generic and brand names

— Why you are taking the medicine. Many medications have multiple uses

— When to take the medicine. For instance, if you need to take a dosage four times a day, figure out what times of the day to take your medicine.

— How to take the medicine. Should the drug be taken with a meal or on an empty stomach? Are there certain foods or drinks you should avoid while taking the medication?

— What are the possible side effects and interactions to watch for.

•Follow directions. It’s a good idea to verify the dosage and timing every time you take the medication. Understand what you should do if you forget to take a dosage. Also know when to stop taking a drug.

For some seniors, memory loss, poor eyesight or lack of physical dexterity can make it difficult for them to take their medicines correctly. Talk to your pharmacist about getting easy-to-open pill bottles, or labels with large print (if that isn’t available, keep a magnifying glass near your medications).

Use a system to help you remember to take your medications. A pillbox can allow you to sort out your dosages ahead of time. Other seniors use mealtimes, bedtimes or other routine events as a cue for remembering.

Remember, your pharmacist is there to provide valuable information about how to safely and effectively take your medications. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you don’t understand something about your medicines or are experiencing adverse side effects.

Larry Poon is the Assistant Director of Pharmacy Services at Eden Medical Center.



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