If you take prescription drugs, here’s what you need to know.
According to AARP, nearly 75 percent of people age 45 and older are on a prescription medications and the average number of prescriptions taken daily is up to four.1 Medication safety and management is important to make sure the medications are working in your favor and not against you.
“Patients must be proactive about their health especially when they are at home,” says Steve Goforth, president of Oxford Home HealthCare. “Doctors can only do so much. It is important for patients to be knowledgeable of the drugs they are taking, potential side effects and when/how to take the prescription medication.”
Here are 7 tips on medication safety and management that could help save you or a loved one’s life.
1. Ask questions.
Doctors and pharmacists are there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask the facts about any medication you’ve been prescribed— the side effects, the potential interactions with other drugs or supplements, how to take it and when. Write down the answers to refer back to in case you forget or bring a spouse, loved one or friend with you when you visit the doctor to have an extra person to help absorb all of the information the doctor says. Read the prescription labels thoroughly and if you have any follow-up questions once you’re home, call your doctor or pharmacist.
2. Store medications properly.
Use a pillbox if you’re taking multiple medications at one time. Pillboxes have compartments for each day of the week to make it easier to sort the medication. Some pillboxes even have compartments for morning, noon and night.
Most medications should be stored in a dry place at room temperature unless otherwise noted. Some drugs may require refrigeration. Keep away from direct sunlight and out of the reach of children and pets. Throw away medications upon expiration.
3. Create and maintain an updated list of medication and supplements you are taking.
Put the list in your wallet or as a note in your phone so it is on your person at all times. If you are receiving home healthcare, give the list to your caregivers. Organize the list with the name of the medication and strength; the prescribing doctor and phone number; purpose (blood thinner, thyroid, blood pressure, etc.); dosage; and any comments. This is especially important in the event of an emergency so emergency personnel have the knowledge of what medications the patient is taking. Every time you visit the doctor, take the list with you to review with the doctor.2
4. Remember to take your pills every day.
Remembering to take pills every day is tough. Set a reminder on your phone. Put the pills by your toothbrush and take them when you brush your teeth. Do not take a day off. Take the medication exactly as prescribed.
5. Monitor your food and drink.
Some medications do not mix well with certain types of foods. Some drugs need to be taken with foods and some do not. Ask the doctor about the effects of medications and food.
Alcohol may exacerbate the side effects of medications. It can also increase the likelihood of liver damage, heart problems, internal bleeding, impaired breathing and depression.3 Consult your doctor about alcohol and medications before you decide to have a cocktail. Eat a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables, nuts, fish, lean meats and whole grains.
6. Schedule frequent doctor visits.
Health needs are changing by the day. By scheduling regular doctor visits, patients can address concerns on the regular, determine whether or not they still need the medication and address other concerns as they arise.
7. Report unusual side effects to the doctor.
Refrain from performing an Internet search if you are experiencing a strange side effect. Call your doctor and discuss any unusual side effects with him/her immediately. An allergic reaction is possible when taking any type of drug. Report to the doctor if you experience itching or rashes. Call 911 in the case of an anaphylactic reaction where you are having trouble breathing.
“Prescription drug misuse is on the rise as more and more aging adults take medications,” says Goforth. “Educate yourself as much as possible on the drugs you are prescribed and take the drugs accordingly. If you suspect a problem with addiction, get some help.”
Oxford HealthCare is committed to excellence in providing home care services to the elderly and disabled in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas. We invite you to contact us for the best possible plan for your family. Give us a call!