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
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
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