Managing medications is a complex and challenging task for aging adults. Many older people are managing multiple conditions with multiple medications. Juggling what to take, when to take it and how much to take can be overwhelming, and in some cases a matter of life or death. The bottom line—the more drugs you take, the more you are at risk for dangerous side effects and interactions. Here are a few simple strategies to help you manage your medications and reduce your risk for medication complications.
Be proactive and ask questions when your doctor prescribes a new medication. Remember to note the following about each prescribed medication.
- Medication name
- Dosage information
- Special instructions
- Storage instructions
- Possible side effects and interactions
Make a list of all medications.
Keep an updated list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take. Make two copies—keep one list at home and keep one list with you at all times. Share it with your healthcare team and pharmacist. Be sure to include the name of each medication, dosage information, the reason you take it and if it needs to be taken with food.
Review your list of medications regularly.
Review your list of prescription and over-the-counter medications every time you visit the doctor or when your doctor prescribes a new medication. Ask your doctor for updated drug information that might be important to you and your conditions.
Keep a medication file.
After you read the detailed information that accompanies your prescription, file it away in a secure and easily accessible location. Reference the file when you have questions about side effects, interactions, reactions, etc.
Use one pharmacy.
If possible, fill all prescriptions at one pharmacy. Using one pharmacy helps to reduce the risk for adverse drug interactions and medication errors.
Use a pill organizer.
Presort your medications into a daily, weekly or monthly pill organizer to avoid confusion and keep you on track. They can be a huge help, but only if they are filled right in the first place. A few simple tips:
- Keep one pill in the original container for reference.
- Fill your pill organizer in good light and when you can be undisturbed.
- Create a checklist of all medications included in the organizer.
Do not modify medications.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist before cutting a pill in half or crushing a pill. Cutting a pill in half or crushing a pill could alter how the drug is released into your system. If you have difficulty swallowing a medication, ask for a smaller dosage or liquid form of the medication.
Store medications safely.
Be sure to store your medications according to the instructions. Some medications may need to be refrigerated. All others, keep in a dark, cool place. Although the bathroom medicine cabinet is convenient, it’s not the best storage space due to moisture.
Dispose of old drugs.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications have expiration dates. Pay close attention to expiration dates, discard accordingly and contact your physician for a refill if necessary.
Medication management is vital — use these tips to safeguard your health and well-being.