With the rise in specialty medicine and pharmaceutical research, a plethora of drug treatments are now available for just about every condition. Even for some conditions that are a bit of a stretch. (Restless leg syndrome – really?)
Today, the average number of prescriptions filled increases with age, from 13 prescriptions annually for those age 50 to 64, to 22 prescriptions every year for those age 80 and older. Who is keeping track of what they are, how they work, and most importantly of all — are they safe and doing the job they’re meant to do for you?
If you think your doctors are staying on top of your meds and how they interact, think again. While they do the best they can, they are short on time, resources and accurate medical records. So… you or someone you trust, must be your quarterback for safe medication use.
Key questions to ask for every medication.
- What is this for?
- What are the signs it’s working? What are the symptoms it’s not working?
- What are the potential side effects?
- How does this work with other my other meds I’m taking (including vitamins, herbal supplements, drugstore-type aids)? Are they safe together?
- Any limitations for activity and diet?
- Who should we call if we have more questions or concerns?
WebMD.com is a good source of medication info, and it’s always a good idea to double-check these details.
- If you your or a loved one is 65 or older, look up every prescribed drug to see if it’s on the Beers list of “caution” medications for older adults. If you find one of these prescribed, be sure to bring this to the doctor/s’ attention. (See http://www.americangeriatrics.org/files/documents/beers/2012AGSBeersCriteriaCitations.pdf)
- Create a good, safe system for managing medications at home. Think about special pillboxes, apps, alarms, and checklists… anything that makes it easier to take meds safely.
- If you are stumped for ideas, ask your pharmacist.
- Buddy up with someone to check in frequently after starting a new medication, and especially after discharge from a hospital stay (where lots of meds are taken, and new ones are started) – at least once a day for at least a month.
Be on alert for signs of trouble.
If you have any concerns whatsoever, don’t hesitate to call a doctor.
All of these details can be daunting, but you are so smart to be pro-active. It’s downright scary when patients of any age don’t have a handle on their medication instructions: now you know how to help!
When it comes to managing medications, the old saying “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” couldn’t be more timely.