Meeting Medication Challenges as You Age
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 75 percent of people older than 65 have more than one chronic health problem. So, at this stage of life, it’s common to take many different drugs.1
The problem is it can be hard to keep track of more than one drug. And how your body responds to medicines can also change as you age. Challenges like these may explain why one-third of hospitalizations among older patients are due to drug-related problems.1
Communicating well with your doctor and pharmacist can help you stay safe and ensure your drugs work the right way. Each person’s situation is unique, so get the personal attention you deserve. Ask your pharmacist any questions you may have.
In the meantime, here are some ways to manage common challenges you may face:
1. Multiple meds. It helps to use one pharmacy for all your prescriptions and refills. That way, we can check for potential interactions between your medications. And we can suggest supplements that would be safe for you to take along with those drugs.
Bring your pharmacist a list of all your prescription and over-the-counter medications and vitamins and supplements. Let’s discuss ways to synchronize or simplify your medication schedule.
If you notice any side effects, tell your doctor and me right away. This can be a reaction to a drug or a combination of drugs.2 It may also be due to an interaction with alcohol or certain foods. 3
2. Forgetfulness. You may find it helpful to write down your medication schedule. Note the day and time to take each drug, and what it’s for. Include special instructions such as whether to take the drug with food and where to store it.
Special pill boxes may also help. Also, set a daily routine and tie it to another well-ingrained habit. For example, if you need to take a medication at night, keep those pills near your toothbrush.2
3. Cost. On fixed incomes, many older adults are concerned about the high cost of medications. First of all, know that skipping doses or not filling your prescription is not a safe solution. You need to take the drug exactly as directed.
Talk to me about ways to reduce costs. For example, we can see whether a generic version of your drug is available. Or you may be eligible for a prescription assistance program. Also, ask your insurance company if you can get a senior citizen discount.
Before filling a prescription, your doctor may have free samples available. This isn’t a long-term solution. But you can try a drug for free while seeing if it works with a minimum of side effects.4
4. Swallowing or dexterity problems. Do you have trouble swallowing pills or opening pill bottles? Together, we can come up with a solution.
For example, easy-to-open containers are okay if there are no children in your home. And, you may be able to take a liquid medicine instead of pills. Check with me first before chewing or crushing tablets.5
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
1. MUST: “Tips You Can Use.” Available at: http://www.mustforseniors.org/tips.jsp Accessed October 31, 2014.
2. MUST: “Juggling Multiple Medications: What You Can Do to Stay Safe.” Available at: http://www.mustforseniors.org/documents/must_juggling.pdf Accessed October 31, 2014.
3. FDA: “Medicines and You: A Guide for Older Adults.” Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ucm163959.htm Accessed November 3, 2014.
4. MUST: “Talking About Cost: Don’t Let Medication Expenses Cut into Your Treatment.” Available at: http://www.mustforseniors.org/documents/must_talkingaboutcost.pdf Accessed November 3, 2014.
5. FDA: “As You Age: You and Your Medicines.” Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm143566.htm Accessed November 3, 2014.
6. FDA: “Tips for Seniors.” Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/TipsforSeniors/default.htm Accessed October 31, 2014.
7. Family Caregiver Alliance: “Caregivers’ Guide to Medications and Aging.” Available at: https://caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-medications-and-aging Accessed October 31, 2014.