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Medication Management


Manage Your Medications for a Safer, Healthier Life

All it takes is a look at advertisements aimed at the 50-plus crowd to confirm the fact that Americans are living longer than ever before and are more active than older adults were even a few decades ago.

Modern health care is responsible for much of this rise in longevity and vitality, including major improvements in the treatment and management of such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and stroke. As a result, many older adults find themselves on some sort of medication—and often there are multiple medications to juggle.

While drug treatments help us live longer, healthier and more active lives, they also pose a challenge in terms of making sure we’re taking the right medications at the right time and in the right way. Melody Stopher, RN, the clinical supervisor and educator for Simi Valley Hospital’s Home Care Services, offers several tips to help people successfully and safely manage their medications.

Tip #1: Know what you’re taking—and why

Read your prescription label and any accompanying paperwork about the medication carefully and completely to be sure you understand what you’re taking and when and how you should take it. If you’re unsure why your doctor has prescribed the medication, don’t hesitate to ask him or her for an explanation.

“There are medications, for instance, that can cause severe or even life-threatening results if they are stopped abruptly,” Stopher said. “That’s just one example of why it is so important to know everything you can about your medication.”

Tip #2: Make a list

Before another day passes, it is critically important that you make a list of every prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, herbal supplement, vitamin and so forth that you take on a regular basis. Include the name of the medication, the dosage amount and how often the medication is to be taken.

Be sure to put the list in a place—such as a wallet or purse—where it will be readily available wherever you are. Another option is to make copies of your list and keep a copy at home, in your car, in your wallet or purse, in a travel bag and so forth.

“If you visit a new doctor or end up in the emergency room, or you need medical help when you’re out of town, your medication list will be extremely important for the people who are caring for you,” Stopher said.

Tip #3: Keep everyone’s medications separate

If you live in a household in which more than one person takes medications, find a separate location for each person’s bottles to avoid taking the wrong drugs.

“Most prescription medications come in the same amber-colored bottles with white lids, so it’s extremely easy to get them mixed up with others in your household,” Stopher said. “Even if you ‘always’ keep your bottles in a certain spot, they can get moved accidentally, and you could end up taking the wrong medication. Make sure your bottles are completely separate from those of anyone else in your home—including pet medications.”

Tip #4: Invest in a pill planner

To further avoid getting your medication mixed in with the medication of others in your household—and to help keep from missing doses or double-dosing—purchase an inexpensive daily or monthly pill planner case from your local pharmacy.

“Pill planners have a separate compartment for each day of the week,” Stopher said. “If you can’t remember whether or not you took for pills for a particular day, all you have to do is look in the compartment. In addition, the cases are a much more convenient way to travel with your medications.”

Tip #5: Don’t ignore side effects

Be aware that almost every medication has the potential to cause some type of side effect in some people.

“If you notice a change in whatever is normal for you, talk with your doctor,” Stopher said.