Older adults often face a double whammy when it comes to medicine. They’re more likely to use medications than younger people, but they’re also more likely to experience harmful side effects.
In fact, every year, one in three adults aged 65+ has one or more harmful reactions to a medication, according to the American Geriatrics Society.
Why? Older adults are more likely to take multiple medications for multiple conditions — all at the same time. This can be confusing and lead to harmful interactions. Also, many seniors who live on a fixed income have trouble paying for all of their medicines, making it difficult to stay on track.
If you take one or more medications, it’s important to manage them wisely to stay healthy and safe. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind:
1. Be informed about all the medications you’re taking.
All drugs are potentially harmful — whether they’re prescription medicines or over-the-counter products such as herbals, supplements, vitamins, minerals, antacids, sleep aids and laxatives.
Keep an up-to-date list of all of your medications. Share it with your doctor and pharmacist and have them review it for potential drug interactions.
Try using this Drug and Supplement Diary from the American Geriatrics Society, and take time to review the society’s Ten Medications Older Adults Should Avoid or Use with Caution.
2. Use one pharmacy and talk to your pharmacist often.
Your pharmacist is a great resource. He or she can help you keep track of your medications and check for drug interactions among them. Ask your pharmacist questions about your medications. If your pharmacist is busy, schedule a time to come back when it’s less busy.
Here are some Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Pharmacist about Your Medicines from the Center for Medicines & Healthy Aging.
3. Understand and pay attention to possible side effects.
Some medications can cause troublesome side effects, especially in older adults. Examples include dizziness and drowsiness that could lead to a fall; stomach upset, diarrhea, or constipation; blurred vision; dry mouth; and fatigue/lack of energy.
Know what to expect, how long the side effects may last, what to do when they occur, and when to contact your doctor. In some cases, your doctor may tell you to stop taking the medication, but never stop taking a medication without first speaking with you doctor.
4. Store your medicines safely.
Medications should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location. Humidity in the bathroom can alter a medication’s effectiveness. Keep medicines where you’re likely to see them every day, and link taking them with other daily activities like eating or brushing your teeth. Go through your medicine cabinet regularly and discard any expired medications.
Get more Tips on Safe Storage and Disposal of Your Prescription Medicines from the National Council on Patient Information and Education.
5. Take your medication as prescribed.
Medication adherence, as prescribed by your doctor, is important for good health. Make sure you understand how to take each of your medications safely.
6. Find help paying for medicine.
Managing medications can be difficult when the cost of your drugs is high. If you’re having trouble paying for your prescriptions, check out 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Medications.
Medication Management Quiz
Test yourself! See if you know the facts about how to manage your medications safely.
- True or False: If one medication does not work, take two or three.
- True or False: Even if one dose makes me feel good, a larger dose might not make me feel even better.
- True or False: If my doctor has not stopped the medication, I must still need it now.
- True or False: It is important that you take only prescription medications that are specifically prescribed for you.
- True or False: Generic drugs normally cost more than brand name drugs.
- True or False: Generic drugs are tested and approved through the FDA.
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