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Taking Medications With Care

Taking Medications With Care

As a general rule, medication is a good thing. When we're under the weather, it helps us feel better. And without medication, chronic conditions-from heart disease to hypertension-couldn't be managed.

Seniors use more medications–both prescription and over the counter–than any other age group. And for older adults, these medications can prove harmful–even fatal. In fact, those age 65 and older are three times as likely as younger people to require emergency medical care for adverse drug interactions and severe side effects.

With the goal of reducing these ER visits, ATRIO Health Plans is supporting the October educational initiative Talk About Your Medicines Month by sharing steps seniors can take to minimize medication-related risks.

Medication Safety Checklist

Seniors need to step up and serve as their own medication advocates by proactively asking questions and seeking information before taking any medication. Use this checklist as a guide:

  • What is the name of the medication (both brand and generic names)?
  • What is the medication for?
  • Does it matter what time of day or night I take this medication?
  • Should I take this medicine on an empty stomach or with food?
  • For how long do I take this medication?
  • Are there any foods, drinks, other medicines, dietary supplements, or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine?
  • Should I avoid alcohol while taking this medication?
  • What are the possible side effects of this medication, and what should I do if I experience side effects?
  • How will I know if this medication is working?
  • Will this new prescription interact adversely with the other prescription and over-the-counter medicines I'm currently taking?
  • How should this medication be stored?
  • Have you given me all of the written information I should review about this medicine?

Other Safety Steps

In addition to following the checklist above, there are other steps you can take to maximize medication safety:

  • Make a medication list that includes the names of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
  • Next to the name of each medication, list the prescribing physician's name.
  • Make note of each medication's purpose, dose, and if the medication needs to be refilled. If a refill is necessary, write down when a refill should be requested.
  • Be sure to update your medication list when starting a new medication. If you stop taking a medication, indicate the date on which you stopped.
  • Use only one pharmacy so that your prescription records are all in one place, which will decrease the risk of potentially adverse drug interactions.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers, and be sure they are stored in an area that can't be accessed by children or pets.
  • Never share your prescription medicines or take other people's medications.
  • If you have any concerns about a medication, don't hesitate to contact your healthcare provider. When it comes to medication safety, there are no stupid questions.