July 20, 2014

Managing Your Medicines

Of course, for many seniors with memory problems or those with different forms of dementia, managing medications can be extremely difficult and often requires family assistance or caregiver assistance. Don't look the other direction or ignore these people, as they deserve to be cared for and have quality of life until the end.

Their problems with memory issues can often lead to not taking medications or taking them only when remembered. This can mean doubling up of medications sometimes as well. Making sure that medications are stored properly, have not expired, and are taken as directed requires time and attention. Many of the elderly take many medications at the same time and remembering what each if for, when to take each, and how to take each can be difficult.

There are some strategies that can be used to help manage medicines wisely.
#1. Maintain a checklist. For all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you take, keep and update a checklist. The suggested format here may work for some people. It can be printed out or modified to a spreadsheet. Try to have at least two copies of your checklist. Put one on the refrigerator door or where your medications are stored and have one copy for your wallet or purse.

#2. Review your medicine record or list often. Do this before every visit to your doctor and when every your doctor prescribes a new medicine. Also do this whenever you stop or start a new over-the-counter medication or dietary supplement. Whenever your doctor discontinues a medication, adds a new medication, or changes the dosage of a medication, ask the doctor to write this information out with instructions for each medication. Keep this information handy.

#3. Ask your pharmacist to provide your medications in large, easy to open containers with large-print labels, if needed. Never put more than one medicine in the same container unless it is a multi-day dispenser. Always keep medicines in their original containers – again unless they have been organized in a multi-day dispenser. You may want to have multi-day dispensers that organize your medicines by the day and time you should take them.

#4. Determine how each medication should be stored. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how best to store each medicine. Insulin and some medicines must be stored in the refrigerator. Your kitchen cabinet near the stove and the bathroom medicine cabinet is not a good place to store most medicines because of the moist warm conditions that can exist and cause the drugs to break down more quickly. Many medicines have temperature range requirements for storage.

#5. Do not taking a prescription drug unless your doctors orders it or says it is okay. It is not okay just because you are feeling better. Some medicines are for a specific length of time and are not fully effective until the full amount it taken.

#6. Get prescriptions refilled early to avoid running out. Check with your insurance to find out how early they authorize refills. Also, running out of a medicine can cause problems. Check expiration dates and ask your doctor for a refill prescription if needed.

#7. Keep all medicines out of sight and reach of children. Store all medicines securely and away from pets. If children do visit your house, be extra cautious and have the phone number of the nearest poison control center handy.

Always remember that your pharmacist is an excellent resource for information about your medicines. Your pharmacist will answer questions and help you select non-prescription medications. It is wise to have your prescriptions filled by one pharmacist because this provides a backup for stopping medication conflicts

Be prepared in case of accidental poisoning involving medications or other substances. Call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a poison expert at the poison center serving your area. The service is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and calls are always free and confidential. Interpreter services are also available in 160 languages. Keep the number programmed in your home phone and mobile device.”

For more information, visit the Poison Help website at www.poisonhelp.hrsa.gov

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