During my years as Client Care Manager for a healthcare company, I talked with many clients who did not understand the risks of medication mismanagement or how to guard against it. Unfortunately, not being careful in tracking and administering medications can lead to severe health problems from ineffective treatment to hospitalization or real physical danger.
Once during a quality assurance visit, I asked a client if she had taken her medication that day. She responded, “Yes.” She added that since she had forgotten to take her pills the day before, she took double the amount to make up for the day before.
An online survey conducted by AARP in 2016 showed that in a survey of 1,800 adults (age 50 and over) … 75% take a prescription medication on a regular basis, with an even higher percentage for those ages 65 and older. Of these, over 80% take at least 2+ prescriptions and over 50% take 4+ prescriptions. This survey tells us that the risk is proportionate to the number of people taking prescriptions. The good news is that medication mismanagement can be avoided through simple measures such as fastidious administration and clearer communications between healthcare providers, elderly patients and their family or private caregivers.
Below are some recommended tips when taking medications. Note: for this article, the term medications include prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.
- Take Medications as Prescribed. Read all details on prescription labels. A good example is … don’t use an over-the-counter “cough and cold” syrup if you only have a runny nose but no cough. Also, remember … some medications are supposed to be taken “as needed.”
- Take the Proper Dose. Do not take a larger dose thinking that the more you take, the more it will help you. Doing this can be very dangerous. Also, don’t take half dosages to save money.
- Take the Medication on Time. If the label says to take your medication with a meal, or at bedtime, that’s the time you should take it. Some people use calendars, timers or weekly pill boxes as reminders to take their medication.
- Do Not Take Medications in the Dark. Turn on a light so your vision is not impaired, and you do not make any mistakes.
- Do Not Stop Taking Your Medication Cold Turkey. Take your prescription medication until they are all gone … or until your doctor says it’s okay to stop. Stopping cold turkey could have an adverse effect physically or mentally.
- Call Your Doctor Right Away. If you are having problems with your prescription or over-the-counter medication, or if you are concerned that it might be doing you more harm than good, maybe there is another medication you can take. You won’t know unless you call your doctor.
- Be Transparent. If you are using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs that can intervene with the effectiveness of your medications … be honest. Tell your doctor how much you use.
- Have an Up-to-Date List of Medications. Keep an accurate list of medications on hand and easily accessible at all times. Take this list to all doctor appointments or when admitted into a hospital.
- Be Observant of Changes. Pay attention to physical or cognitive changes. Disorientation, falls, and fractures can be linked to side effects caused by some medications.
- Do Not Share Medications. Do not take medications prescribed to someone else and do not share your medication with others.
By following the steps above, you can help ensure that you are getting the most benefit from your prescription medications while minimizing the risks involved. Remember … this article is for informative purposes only. Always check with a medical professional about any healthcare issue.