6 tips to safely manage multiple medications

6 tips to safely manage multiple medications

While medications can greatly improve the quality of life for a person who is suffering from pain or illnesses, they also carry serious risks if taken incorrectly.

People who have health issues are commonly prescribed a number of medications, putting them at an increased risk of taking their medication incorrectly and suffering from the side effects of improper drug interactions.

Older adults are much more susceptible to prescription mismanagement due to the vast number of medications they often take.

“It’s common to see older adults with health complications as a result of them not following their prescription plan,” says Rolla Sweis, pharmacy director at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “The consequences of improper medication use can be very serious. Patients with diabetes or heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, who are not taking their medications are at an increased risk for stroke.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that adults 65 years and older are twice as likely as others to visit emergency rooms for adverse drug events.

Sweis offers the following tips for older adults or family caregivers on how to easily and safely manage multiple medications:

  1. Create a list: Make and regularly update a list of all medications that you take. The list should include the name and dosage of all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal supplements.
  2. Bring the list to all medical appointments: People often see multiple physicians so the list should be brought to all doctor and pharmacy visits. Medical experts can review the list to avoid possible dangerous drug interactions. A copy should also be kept in your wallet in case of a medical emergency.
  3. Know your meds: Knowledge is power. Ask your physician or pharmacist what each medication does, when and how to take it and how long before it will start taking effect. People are more likely to take their medication correctly if they understand how it impacts their health.
  4. Take medications as prescribed: To ensure medications provide the greatest benefit, it is important to take them the way the doctor prescribed them. Instructions may include a specific time of day or whether to take them with food. Some medications, particularly transplant medications, can impact concentrations in the blood if not taken consistently.
  5. Develop a reminder system: A pill box with daily compartments can serve as a reminder to take your medicine or easily identify if you have taken or missed a dose. Other techniques include developing a calendar, programming an alarm or using a medication reminder app on your phone.
  6. Use one pharmacy: If possible, only fill prescriptions at one pharmacy. This ensures the pharmacist has your complete medication record and can protect you from possible drug interactions.

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About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.