More than a third of Americans over the age of 65 take at least five prescription medications and the typical 75-year-old takes more than 10 prescription drugs. This can make taking the right doses at the right time confusing. Given the potential dangers of taking the wrong medication or taking too much or too little of the right medication, managing your prescription and nonprescription drugs is a critical component in maintaining good health.
Tips For Managing Your Medication
Get a “Days of the Week” Pillbox
These simple and inexpensive devices are excellent for knowing exactly what to take and when. They make it easy to track your medications and to tell if you’ve accidentally skipped a dose. Pillboxes come in a variety of sizes and options. If you’re unsure about which to get, ask your doctor or pharmacist what might work best for your medications. Just be sure that whatever you choose, the compartment is large enough to fit all your prescribed pills. You can also choose to invest in an automatic dispenser, which can be programmed to dispense your medications for you at a set time every day. These vary in price and functionality and are worth the investment if you find yourself forgetting to take your medications with a standard pillbox.
While a pillbox can help you stay organized, a reminder is an added step that can really ensure you stay on track. There are a variety of ways to set reminders: smartphones, personal voice devices – like Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) or Google’s Assistant – or even an alarm clock. These devices are particularly useful for those living with memory loss. Some reminder devices, such as Reminder Rosie, are designed specifically for older adults and allow you to program reminders for any time, multiple times a day.
If Possible, Use a Single Pharmacy
Using a single pharmacy for all of your medication needs allows your pharmacist to track your medication and raise a red flag if a new prescription doesn’t interact well with a current prescription. Using a single pharmacy is an added layer of protection that you won’t suffer an adverse medical reaction.
Take Medications as Recommended
Your doctor and pharmacist can go over medication instructions with you. Take the right amount at the recommended time. Know whether to take your medication with or without food or water. If you drink alcohol, find out if it’s safe to do so while taking your medicines. Ask what you should do if you accidentally skip a dose or take too much of a certain medication. Never discontinue a prescription medication or change the amount you take without first discussing it with your healthcare provider.
Store Your Medications Properly
Many medications have storage instructions. While most simply want to sit at a dry, cool temperature, some should be refrigerated. Your bathroom, which heats up and becomes humid when you shower or bathe, isn’t really the best place to store your medicine. The bedroom or kitchen cupboard may be a better option.
Review Your Medications with Your Doctor Regularly
Are there drugs you should no longer be taking? Could two or more of your medications be dangerous if taken together? Are you having side effects like dizziness or nausea? Talk to your healthcare provider about all the prescription and nonprescription medicines you take. This includes herbs and supplements. Bring in a list of your medications or the pill bottles themselves with their labels.