Judith A. Wakefield
For Release: October 27, 2002
New drugs on the market help people live longer and be healthier - they can
help control many conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure
and heart disease. With the use
of these medications we are able to live with greater independence while
coping with potentially disabling conditions.
There can also be problems with these new medications.
It is estimated that the average senior citizen uses four point five
prescription medications and two over-the-counter medications at the same
time. This puts them at risk for
Senior citizens often go to more than one doctor and the doctors may not be
aware of what the other doctors have prescribed.
This can result in a combination of medications that do more damage
Mild adverse drug reactions such as confusion, drowsiness, and loss of
coordination may be mistaken for a common consequence of aging and not as a
result of medications. Itís more serious that twenty eight percent of
hospital stays for senior citizens are drug related, eleven percent were due
to not following directions for medications and seventeen percent were related
to adverse drug reactions.
There are a couple ways this can be avoided.
One good way is to prepare a chart of all medications you are taking.
The chart should include the name of the medication, whether it is
prescribed (and who prescribed it) or over-the-counter, what you are taking it
for, when you take it, how much,
when you started taking it and any adverse reactions you have had.
The chart should include all prescription medications, all
over-the-counter medications, herbal products, vitamins and minerals and any
other food supplements. This
should be shared with every doctor you go to and with your pharmacist.
This paints a much clearer picture of what you are taking than just
what that one doctor prescribed. The
doctors can prescribe medications that do not have adverse reactions with
medications you are already taking.
Use only one pharmacy to have all your prescriptions refilled. All your
prescription medications will be on his/her computer and the pharmacist can
catch medications that are not compatible.
This can help avoid a lot of problems. The pharmacist will
not be aware of over-the-counter medications, herbal products and
vitamins and minerals the person is taking unless you share your medication
chart with him/her. Try to visit
the pharmacy when it isnít very busy so you can talk to the pharmacist.
Many people think that over-the-counter medications, herbal products and
vitamins and minerals are harmless
and canít cause problems. Some
over-the-counter medications were prescription drugs at one time and can be
dangerous in combination with the wrong other medications. Some herbal products can have adverse reactions in
combination with the some prescription and over-the-counter medications. Your
physician and pharmacist can help you avoid these problems.
Doctors and pharmacists are very busy and may not take the time to answer
questions unless you insist. Itís up to you to get the answers to questions
that can help you take medicines safely. The inserts in medicine containers are printed so small that
many people donít even try to read it and find out about what they are taking.
Ask your doctor the name of the medicine and what it is supposed to do.
Find out how much you should take and when.
Ask about possible side effects and when and how you should take the
medication - on a empty stomach, full stomach, etc?
Ask if anything should be avoided while you are taking this medication -
alcohol, certain foods, etc. Ask
when you should discontinue taking it and what you should do if you miss a dose.
Make notes to remind yourself. Make sure you know exactly how you are
supposed to take the medication and what for.
If you donít get the answers from your physician or his/her staff, ask
your pharmacist. You can also ask if there are generic equivalents to the
prescribed medicine save money.
It is important to take medicines as directed and on schedule.
If you canít read the print on a medication bottle ask the pharmacist
to use a larger font when he/she prints the label.
Make a chart of what you are supposed to take, how much and when.
Check off when you have taken each dose.
Do not take medicines with alcohol, grapefruit juice, milk or with sodas.
Read the labels. Acid
content can change how medicines, especially time release medications,
will be absorbed.
Where should you keep your medications? Although
it is handy to keep them out where you can see them, they keep better if stored
in a cool, dry and dark place. Make
sure they are out of reach of children. The
heat and humidity in a bathroom or kitchen can change the composition of
medications, especially if you leave the lid off for easy access.
Keep your chart out where you can see it to remind yourself to take your
medications but store the medications in a cool, dry and dark location.
One handy place to keep the chart is to tape it to a kitchen cabinet door
- right at eye level.
Make sure you keep your medicines in the original containers and never mix
several together in one container, unless you use the pill boxes with cubby
holes for each day.
Never stop taking medicines before they are used up unless the doctor approves,
and never take medications that were prescribed for someone else.
Finding out all we can about the medications we are taking to keep healthy and
being methodical in taking them as prescribed can help us feel better and avoid
complications that can be dangerous to our well-being.
The chart described above is available free of charge
from the County Extension Service located in
the County Administration Annex at 1028 20th Place in Suite D.