People age 65 and over take more prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs than any other age group. In retirement & assisted living communities, on average, residents have ten medications administered to them. One reason for this increased number of medicines is that many people in this age group have long term chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Another factor is that these diagnoses are usually made by multiple physicians who may be unaware of other medications that a person is taking. For all of these reasons, it is important that seniors be sure to take their medications safely. The National Institute on Aging has recommended these suggestions for being safe with prescription and over-the-counter drugs:
• Make a list of all the medicines you take. Show this list to all your health care providers including physical therapists and dentists. One copy of this list should be in your medicine cabinet. You should make additional copies for your wallet or pocketbook and for your spouse or family member. The list should include:
o The name of each medicine
o The doctor who prescribed the medicine
o The reason it was prescribed
o The amount you take
o The times you take the medicine
• Read and save all written information that comes with the medicine.
• Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
• Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine. Your doctor will decide whether to change your medicine to another that may work better.
• Use a memory aid to take your medicines on time. Some people use meals or bedtime as reminders. Other people use charts, calendars, and weekly pill boxes to remind them.
• Do not skip doses or take half doses to save money. Instead, talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you can’t afford the prescribed medicine. They may know of less costly choices or special programs to help with the cost.
• Avoid mixing alcohol and medicine.
• Take your medicine until it’s finished or until your doctor says it’s okay to stop.
• Don’t take medicines prescribed for another person or give yours to someone else.
• Don’t take medicine in the dark to avoid taking the wrong pills.
• Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles and throw away any outdated medicines.
• Don’t leave your medicine on a kitchen table or counter where someone else may get to it.
For more information about medication safety, contact the National Institute on Aging Information Center by calling 800-222-2225 or by logging on to www.nia.nih.gov.
At some point, many seniors need additional help to take medications safely. Since the medications are prescribed to treat illnesses, the impact of not taking medications correctly can be serious. When you do need help, many retirement and assisted living communities can provide assistance with medication administration. In coordination with your doctor, these facilities can ensure that you maintain your health.