It’s a fact of life. As we age, it’s likely we will need medications to maintain good health. While prescription drugs prolong life by controlling chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, it’s important to learn how to take them properly. Effectively managing your prescriptions not only improves compliance, but also helps prevent over-medication and harmful drug interactions.
Taking medications, especially more than once daily, can be challenging. That’s why good medication management begins by partnering with your primary care doctor and a reliable local pharmacist. These professionals will help oversee your prescriptions and answer questions. Other tips for managing your prescriptions are:
• Maintain an up-to-date list of all current medications. Include the drug name, dosage, frequency and diagnosis. Ensure at least one family member has a copy of the list.
• Bring your medication list or, preferably, all of your pill bottles (including over-the-counter medications and supplements) to all doctor appointments, including specialist visits (eye doctor, dermatologist, etc.).
• Notify your primary care doctor whenever medications change (for example, after visiting a specialist, hospitalization or surgery). Your pharmacist can also help in this situation to prevent duplication or drug interactions.
• Over-the-counter medications, supplements and vitamins affect the body even if they are labeled “natural” or “organic.” When taken with certain prescription medications, over-the-counter products can cause side effects or dangerous interactions. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new over-the-counter medicines or supplements.
• Watch for drug confusion with sound-alike names, look-alike pills and combination medications. Ideally, you should know both the brand name and generic name for each medication you are taking.
• Work with your doctor and/or pharmacist to develop a schedule for taking medications and supplements. Some may need to be taken in the morning or with meals. Then use medication organizers, such as pill boxes, to make your regimen easier.