Keeping Track of Your Medications

As we age, the medicines we take may react differently in our bodies, which can increase our risk of falling. If you’re taking multiple medications to treat different health conditions, you need to be even more careful. There are a greater number of side effects associated with multiple medication use and the side effects can be more intense. Interactions between medications that do occur can also cause side effects.

Tips for Safe Medication Use

  • Keep a list of all your prescription and overthe-counter (OTC) medications, as well as all dietary and herbal supplements that you are taking. Show this list to each doctor and pharmacist you visit.
  • Ask if a newly prescribed medication or supplement replaces something else, if it is an addition to your other medications, or interacts with anything else you are taking.
  • Take your medications as labeled, whether prescription or over-the-counter.
  • Throw away old or expired medications from your medicine cabinet.
  • Remember to monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, or blood sugar at home, as recommended by your physician.
  • Report any side effects of your medication to your doctor.
  • Remember that alcohol interacts with many medications, often making the adverse effects of the medications worse.
  • Each time you receive a new medication make sure you discuss with your doctor or pharmacist, understand why you are taking it, be aware of any possible side effects, and understand the precautions and alternatives to taking it. You have the right to ask! Add every new medication to your medication record list.
  • Watch for medications that make you drowsy or dizzy. Discuss medication options (i.e. changing the dose or medication) with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you have trouble opening medication bottles, ask your pharmacist about using regular lids on your medication bottles or providing your prescriptions in pre-filled dosettes or blister packs. Your medication will be arranged for each day for a period of one or two weeks by morning, lunch, dinner and evening.
  • Alcohol can react with many common medications and may affect your balance. These include sleeping pills, cold or allergy medications, tranquilizers, high blood pressure pills and pain medications. Choose low safe limits of alcohol. Low risk drinking guidelines recommend no more than two standard drinks on any day. Limit your weekly intake to 9 drinks or fewer for women and 14 drinks or fewer for men. (i.e. 1 standard drink is 1 bottle of beer or 4 oz. of wine or 1 oz. of alcohol.
  • Always take your medications as directed. If you have uncomfortable or undesirable side effects, tell your physician or pharmacist immediately. If you miss a dose, do not double your dose the next time.

Seeing Multiple Doctors? Stick with One Pharmacist for All Your Prescriptions!

You can often have several doctors: a general practitioner, a heart specialist, a rheumatologist, etc. And one specialist doesn’t always know what prescriptions the others are giving you. That’s where using one pharmacist can help. Your pharmacist will let you know if your multiple prescriptions could cause an adverse reaction or an overdose, and can contact your doctors if necessary.

Medication Safety Checklist
   Have you made a list of all your medications (prescription, over-the-counter and herbal)?
   Have you shared and/ or made copies of your medication list for your doctors, pharmacist, caregivers and/ or family?
   Do you fully read the prescription and dosage instructions on your medicine containers, and take them exactly as prescribed?
   Do you know what alternative steps to take if you forget to take your medication? (You should not double your next dose before checking with a pharmacist.)
   Do you read the information leaflets of the medicines you take to fully understand side effects, or possible complications of combining one medicine with another?

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