Overmedication is a major problem for patients of all ages, but especially for the elderly. Due to the increasing number of medical issues that occur as bodies age, it is natural that more medications are prescribed to to combat the effects of growing older. Most elderly patients take at least 1 prescription, and many take 5 or more. This is can be not only financially draining, but also medically dangerous. However, there are ways to prevent overmedication.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
One of the best ways to keep yourself or your loved one from being overmedicated is by asking questions of your doctor and/or your pharmacist.
- What is this medication for and how will I know it is working?
- What are the side effects to watch for?
- How do I take this prescription? What if I miss a dose?
- Are there any interactions with the other medications or supplements I am taking? (Always take a list of medications and supplements with you to ALL medical appointments.)
- Is there an equally effective generic version or lower-cost alternative?
If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, be bold and ask more questions until you understand the answer.
2. Keep Your Medications Organized
Taking multiple medications dictates a greater need for organization. Be sure that you write down all the supplements, over-the-counter medications and prescription medications you are taking. Include in your list directions, strengths, etc., Additionally, a medication organizer where you can count out your medication by the day can be helpful, as you can quickly see if you have taken your medication for that day. If you have a morning and evening routine, you might find a medication organizer that is separated by night and day or even times helpful Organization is essential for compliance to ensure that you are taking your medication exactly as directed.
3. Ask for a Med-Check Twice a Year From Your Primary Care Doctor
This tip can be very helpful if you go to several different doctors or specialists. Twice a year ask your primary care doctor to look over your medication list to make sure that you are not taking multiple medications to treat the same thing, taking too much a medications, or even medications that work against each other. Be sure you include everything, including OTC medications, herbal supplements, and prescriptions.
4. Ask Before Taking OTC Medications and Herbal Supplements
If you want to add another medication to your arsenal, even if it is all-natural or over-the-counter, be sure to discuss it with your doctor first. There are many drug interactions that can occur with these types of medications and prescriptions meds that you may not be aware of . It is better to ask than to have a side effect that could send you to the hospital, a pharmacist is a good resource for this.
5. Use the Same Pharmacy
When you take multiple medications, there is always the possibility for interaction. When all of your medications come from the same pharmacy, they have a list of what you are taking and have some internal built in warnings when there is a severe cause for concern. Additionally, a pharmacist who knows your conditions and your medications can make recommendations and answer questions with more knowledge. When you use a lot of different pharmacies, the likelihood that you are doubling up on something or taking something that may be problematic increases. Getting to know your pharmacist and pharmacy protects you, because there is less possibility for prescription fraud, because they can see a better overall picture of your health, your relationship fosters ease of communication when you need answers, and your pharmacist can watch for possible interactions and contraindications of which you should be aware.
6. Consider a outside help.
Services like a healthcare coordinator, or a health coach, could be useful. Curus members have their records reviewed by a clinical pharmacist to ensure that they are not taking more medications than are necessary and are the best options for the situation. They review your medical conditions and records, review everything you are taking and ensure there are no contraindications as well as ensure that the most cost-effective formulas are in place. If you are taking 5 medications and 4 of them are to counteract the side effects of the other, there may be 2 medications that would solve the issues with out as many side effects.
These 6 tips can be essential to helping you prevent overmedication in your life and in that of your loved one. Don’t be afraid to communicate, ask questions, and get help. With a team approach, you can stay healthy and keep your loved one healthy for years to come.