Most of the time, medication can be a considerable benefit to those who
have been prescribed a drug by their doctors to help with a specific ailment.
Yet medications do have side effects and must be taken properly in order
to get the benefits and avoid any downsides.
Once a doctor has written a prescription and called it into the pharmacy
and the patient has brought the medicine home, there is the responsibility
to follow instructions. Adhering to the directions may require help, though,
and this can be another tricky part of taking medications appropriately.
An estimated 100,000 Americans ages 65 and older are hospitalized each
year for adverse drug reactions, according to a study published in the
New England Journal of Medicine, but other sources estimate a much higher number.
It's Up to You
Experts recommend scheduling a medication review with your health care
provider, and taking along a trusted family member, friend or another
caregiver. When asked to list medications, include all supplements, even
those not prescribed such vitamins and over-the-counter medicines, as
it’s important to know what might be interacting.
Even particular foods—such as citrus juice and leafy greens—can
cause medication interactions, so don’t be shy about sharing such
details or asking if you should avoid some foods or change when you ingest
them. For example, a person who regularly takes a blood thinner and then
takes vitamin E or fish oil could end up with abnormal bleeding.
Don’t Go Sideways
Many people do not understand what each pill does for them. A medication
review is a good time to teach the purpose of each medicine. If an entire
care team, including the patient, knows what each prescription does, then
all of those involved in the patient’s care know what side effects
to look for and report if necessary.
Certain medications, such as blood thinners, can make people less steady
on their feet. The pills might make them dizzy or unbalanced, increasing
the risk of a dangerous fall. Many organizations have programs that help
with balance, where physical therapists focus on increasing strength and
balance to overcome any weakness that may cause unsteadiness. But strengthening
doesn’t help if the balance issue is from a problem in the inner
ear or a medication. Falls are a leading cause of death in people ages
65 and older, and one fall can lead to a broken bone, a need for surgery,
and may hasten death.
Make Your List, Check It Twice
The end result of an effective medication review should be a current list
of medications, who prescribes each one, and the contact information for
the health care provider and pharmacist. And don’t just file the
list away—bring it to all medical appointments so that it can be
determined if there is a risk for a detrimental interaction. Adding a
medication to your body, herbal, over-the-counter, or doctor-prescribed,
is not something that should be taken lightly.
Also, know the limitations of who can help with different medicines. For
example, a professional caregiver (who is not a licensed nurse) typically
cannot administer medicine but can remind an individual it’s time
to take a pill or liquid.
When it comes to medications, the more you know, the better.