Important Medication Safety Tips

November 3, 2016 in LifeCare Health Services


The older we get, the more likely we are to use additional medicines, which can increase the chance of harmful drug effects, including interactions. As we age, physical changes can affect the way medicines are handled by our body, leading to potential complications. For instance, our liver and kidneys may not work as well, which affects how a drug breaks down and leaves the body.


Here are some medication safety tips to protect you and your loved ones.


  1. Take Medicine as Prescribed—with Input from Your Health Care Provider


Take your medicine regularly and according to your health care provider’s instructions. Don’t skip doses or stop taking medication without first consulting with your provider. This holds true even if you’re feeling better or if you think the medicine isn’t working. Medications that treat chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes normally only work when taken regularly and as directed. Other medications need to be tapered off at a set schedule, because suddenly quitting them can cause negative health effects. With your ongoing input, your healthcare provider will prescribe the best schedule. If you’re having bothersome side effects or have other questions, talk to your provider. In addition, don’t take prescription medications that your health care provider has not prescribed for you.


  1. Keep a Medication List


Write down what you’re taking and keep the list with you. Make sure your medication list is up-to-date, and includes any changes made by your health care provider. Consider giving a copy to a friend or loved one whom you trust—important especially in case of emergency and when you’re traveling.

Your list should include the medicine’s brand name, if applicable, and generic name. Also write down why you’re taking each medication, the dosage, and how often you take it.


  1. Be Aware of Potential Drug Interactions and Side Effects


Learn about possible interactions and the potential side effects of your medications. You can do this by carefully reading drug facts labels on over-the-counter drugs (OTC) and the information that comes with your prescription medications, and by reviewing any special instructions with your health care provider. For instance, some drugs should not be taken with alcohol, as problems such as loss of coordination, memory problems, sleepiness, and falls can result.


If you’re seeing more than one health care provider, tell each one about all medications, herbal preparations, and supplements you take. Some medications can cause side effects similar to health problems that occur in older adults (such as memory difficulties), so ask your healthcare provider if any new health problems you are experiencing could be due to medications. You also can ask your pharmacist about potential drug interactions and side effects.


  1. Review Medications with Your Health Care Provider


Ideally, you should discuss the prescription, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements that you take with your health care provider at each visit. Do this to confirm if the medications are still necessary and if the supplements are appropriate. If it’s not possible to review medications at each visit, schedule at least one review each year.


If a certain medication seems out of your budget, ask your health care provider if there is a less expensive, and still effective, alternative. A medication review with your health care provider can help you avoid drug interactions, reduce your risk for side effects, and lessen costs.


Follow these tips to get the most out of any medications you are taking and keep you healthy and safe at home.

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