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Decreasing Your Chances Of Problems with Your Medications

There's no way around it-the senior population is the most vulnerable to medication errors (such as being prescribed the wrong medication, or the wrong dose of the right medication) and to side effects and adverse reactions. The primary reason is simple-as you age, you're more likely to have conditions that require medications.

In addition, the tissue of older people is more likely to be vulnerable to side effects. Blood levels of a drug may rise higher and last longer because the metabolisms of older people tend to be slower. Doctors may prescribe the same dosage for a 30-year-old as they would for a 75-year-old, which may not always be the best decision.

Problems with drug interactions are more common as you take more medications, and have different doctors prescribing them. Studies have shown that these problems are more likely to arise the more doctors you have prescribing.

Many doctors are over-worked these days. They have more paperwork than ever before, and many of them see more patients than ever before. There's a chance they may not remember to tell you everything you need to know about a prescription, so you need to ask questions, such as

  • What is the name of this medication? (This might seem obvious, but it's necessary to ask.)
  • What is the purpose of this medication?
  • How long should I take this medication? (Sometimes, people aren't aware that their doctor has given them a medication they need to take for the rest of their lives.)
  • What is the dosage?
  • How many times a day should I take it, and how much time should there be in between doses?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • What are the adverse reactions?
  • Will this interact with other drugs I take?
  • Are there activities I should avoid when I'm taking this drug?
  • Is there a less expensive alternative to this drug?

    When you go to the doctor, take a list of every single drug you take, whether it's over-the-counter, a natural remedy, or a prescription. If it's too hard to write them all down, take the actual medications to your doctor.

    Use the same pharmacy all the time. Pharmacists do often check for adverse reactions among the drugs you take, but they won't know about drugs you've bought at a different store.

    Above all, it's ideal to have one single doctor who knows about every drug you take. A primary care provider would normally be that person. This doctor should know about medications you get from a cardiologist, an endocrinologist, an orthopedist, a neurologists or any other doctor you see.

    Other helpful tips

  • There are all kinds of different boxes and containers that help you remember when to take a drug. These can be simple, compartmentalized boxes to gadgets that beep when it's time for your med. You can get these at pharmacies, or talk to your pharmacist about your options.
  • If you can't see well, your pharmacist may be able to write prescription instructions in a larger print.
  • If you don't hear well, ask your doctor or nurse to write down the instructions they give you at the doctor's office. Ask the pharmacist to write things down too.
  • If it's hard for you to open bottles, ask for easy-open caps. If you need to split pills, your pharmacist can do that.

    The American Geriatrics Society; The Family Caregiver Alliance; The Food and Drug Administration

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