Senior Scene November 14,2016

It is a fact of life that the majority of seniors and older adults are reliant on some type of medication to maintain their health and quality of life. Many older adults live with one or more chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis so medicines along with lifestyle changes are often needed as part of the management plan for these conditions.

Studies have also indicated that eight out of ten adults self-medicate using over the counter medicines for various health conditions such as colds, coughs and seasonal allergies. Unfortunately, many seniors fail to consult with their healthcare professional or take the time to learn about how to safely use over the counter remedies particularly when used in combination with prescribed medications.  It is imperative to be well informed about all medications, including herbal remedies in order to avoid adverse reactions and health complications.  Here are some questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist when being prescribed a new medication.

What is the medicine’s name, and what is it supposed to do?

  • How and when should it be taken, and for how long?
  • While taking this medicine, what should be avoided? Specifically inquire about certain foods or dietary supplements, caffeine, alcohol, or other beverages, other medicines (prescription and over the counter), certain activities such as driving, or smoking.
  • Will the new medication work safely in combination with other prescription drugs, over the counter medicine and herbal supplements that are already being taken?
  • Are there side effects, and what to do if they occur?
  • Will the medicine affect your sleep or activity level?
  • What procedure should be followed if a dose is missed?
  • Is there any written information available about the medicine?

Here are some more tips for helping your medicines work as safely and effectively as possible.

  • Keep a written record of all your current medications including their names, dosage, time and instructions for taking them. Make a note of any problems or concerns immediately so they can be discussed with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Read labels carefully before taking doses. It is good practice to read the label every time you take your medication even though you may have been taking the same prescription for many years.
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist prior to crushing or splitting tablets.       Some pills should only be swallowed whole.
  • Never stop taking medicine you have been instructed to finish just because the symptoms have disappeared. This particularly applies to antibiotics.
  • Periodically ask the doctor to review your medications and reevaluate long term treatment plans.
  • Read over the counter medicine labels carefully, checking ingredients, proper uses, directions, warnings, precautions, and expiration dates.       Ensure you are not taking the same medicine in more than one form.
  • Store your medications in their original containers, where the label clearly identifies it and gives directions.
  • Never store medicine in the bathroom (due to heat and humidity) and unless instructed otherwise, keep it away from heat, light and moisture.
  • Never take medication that has been prescribed for someone else.

Remember the three “R’s” for safe medication use:

  • Risks – investigate all the risks and benefits carefully for all medications you take and be an informed decision maker.
  • Respect the power of your medicine and the value of medicines properly used.
  • Responsibility – for learning how to take your medication safely.