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Current research estimates that 25 percent of adults ages 65 to 69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, and the number increases to almost 46 percent for adults over the age of 70. Research also estimates that 58 percent of seniors have made an error when taking medication, 26 percent of those seniors making potentially serious errors in medications usage. Just last week my father-in-law told my mother-in-law that he needed to refill his memory medication. She contacted the pharmacy and found out that he wasn’t due for a refill for another month. He had unknowingly been taking twice the dosage and had used up the pills too quickly. Thankfully it wasn’t a prescription that caused serious harm but it was an immediate wake up call that he needs a better system to keep track of his pills and the correct dosage for each.
At Be Active Be Well we promote wellness through a variety of avenues, and often suggest dietary changes and exercise which are beneficial. Many of us may also need to incorporate prescription drugs or supplements into our wellness plan. For example, the Institute of Medicine advises adults over 50 to get most of their B12 from supplements because it is essential for optimal brain function and diet alone may not provide sufficient amounts. Whether you take multiple medications or just take a daily multivitamin, it’s vital to administer it correctly and take only the proper dosage. Here are some simple tips for managing medications and supplements:
Keep a list of all the medications and supplements you take: I’ve found it easiest to keep a folder for storing medication lists, and other pertinent medical information. Having information on hand to share with medical providers allows them to cross reference and fully understand exactly what drugs and supplements you are taking. Some drugs can negatively interact with other drugs and vitamins so having a comprehensive list is very important.
Ask questions: Ask for the drug name and any pertinent information about it. Ask what the drugs look like. Tablets come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and may have an imprint. Make a note of what a particular medication looks like to prevent mix up. Your doctor should be able to provide you with a list of potential risks and side effects, as well as potential drug interactions. When picking up prescriptions, pharmacists can offer a wealth of knowledge about your specific prescription. Ask them to explain it to you, and take notes. Don’t worry about holding up the line. Your health should be your first priority. Keep your notes in your folder for easy reference.
Bring a friend: It never hurts to have an extra pair of ears to listen to diagnosis, instructions, and other information your medical provider shares with you. In my father in law’s case, he is hard of hearing and there are times when he will admit that he didn’t fully hear or understand the instructions he was given. There is no shame in asking a trusted friend, caregiver or family member to attend a doctor visit with you or help you read and decipher information.
These are simple suggestions. Of course there are many others to incorporate. Many swear by their pill separator boxes, others use calendars or daily alerts of their cell phones. The important thing is to find a system that works for you and to ask for help when you need it. For more detailed information about prescriptions drugs, usage, safety, etc, visit consumermedsafety.org.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.