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Use as Directed: Medication Safety Tips

It’s well known that older adults use more medications — prescriptions, over-the-counter and supplements — than any other age group in the country.

In fact, those 65 and older account for one-third of all prescription medication use in the country. Even though these medications can help seniors manage many chronic diseases and conditions, it’s important that they pay close attention to how to use them safely.

There is a higher risk of drug-related complications in seniors for many reasons, including the use of multiple medications, age-related changes, human error and poor medical management. To ensure you’re taking your medications safely, try these helpful tips:

∫ Talk to your doctor. Bring all of your medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs and vitamins, to your next doctor’s visit. This will give you the opportunity to have questions answered and address any issues you may be experiencing. He or she will be able to help make sure you’re using everything correctly and benefitting to the fullest from your medicine.

∫ Ask your pharmacist questions. Your pharmacist is another important resource for managing your medications safely. A pharmacist can tell you how and when to take your medication, whether a drug may change how another medicine you are taking works and whether you are likely to experience any side effects.

∫ Learn about your medications. The more you know about your medications, the easier it is to avoid possible complications. If you take multiple medications, you should be able to tell them apart by size, shape, color, number or name imprint, form (tablet or capsule) or container.

∫ Keep your medications organized. To help you remember when to take your medication and to make sure you’re not skipping dosages, use a pill box, calendar or other organization system. Establishing a daily routine, such as taking your medication during a meal, will also help you stay on track.

∫ Use automatic prescription refill programs. Ask your pharmacy about automatic refill programs that will let you know when your prescriptions are ready for pick up. Or, find out if your health insurance offers prescriptions by mail, which can save you money and time.

The use of prescription drugs is not something that should be taken lightly — it requires communication and understanding. When in doubt, be sure to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about how to properly take your medication.

Dr. Marylou Buyse is senior medical director of senior markets for Highmark Inc.


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