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Resource Center — Health & Wellness

How to Manage Your Medication for Better Health

A recent study found that almost forty percent of adults age 57 and older take at least one prescription drug a day and regularly mix those drugs with over-the-counter medications and supplements. And, according to the American Geriatrics Society, one in three adults over the age of 65 has one or more harmful reactions to a medication every year.

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Why is this statistic so high? Two reasons.  First, older adults are more likely to take multiple medications for multiple conditions, creating the potential for harmful interactions.  Second, many seniors who live on a fixed income have trouble paying for all of their medicines. This makes it difficult to stay on schedule and keep proper levels of the medication in their system.

As people age, they often develop a number of problems taking medications. Being aware that problems may occur is the first way to minimize them. If you take multiple medications read these 7 tips to help you stay healthy and safe:

  1. Understand why you’re taking each medication. It’s important that you know why your doctor is prescribing a particular medication and to understand how the medication will benefit your health. Be sure to ask any questions about dosage, frequency and side effects of the medication before you leave the doctor’s office. If you find it difficult to advocate for yourself bring a family member or friend to appointments with you to help gather information.
  2. Educate yourself on possible side effects of your medications. 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.
  3. Take your medication as prescribed. Following your medication dosage directions as prescribed by your doctor is important for good health. Make sure you understand how to take each of your medications safely and set up a system to remember to take them at the right times. Never share your medication with anyone else and never take another person’s medication.
  4. Share information about the medications you’re taking. Anything you put into your body is potentially harmful—whether they’re prescribed by a doctor or available over-the-counter. Keep an up-to-date list of all the medications you take including these common items: herbal products, supplements, vitamins, minerals, antacids, sleep aids, and laxatives. Share this information with your doctor and pharmacist and have them review it for potential drug interactions. Keep the list in your wallet for easy access in an emergency or when visiting any doctor. The American Geriatric Society has a free Drug and Supplement Diary form that you can print and use.
  5. Use one pharmacy and get to know your pharmacist. Your pharmacist can help you keep track of your medications and check for drug interactions. 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.
  6. 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. Twice a year review your medications 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.
  7. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is an important component in managing your medication. Not sleeping well can cause you to be tired and foggy during your waking hours. Fatigue causes forgetfulness and even a little bit of fatigue can throw you off schedule causing you to take your medication at incorrect times or forget to take them entirely.

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