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Cornelius News

Pay attention, be smart and watch to your medications



By Joanne Ahern. I can’t believe this is happening.  I had heard that it happens as we age, but I never thought it would happen to me. Some people tell me they can’t keep their medications straight, have trouble keeping track of when to take them, when to replace them, when they don’t need them anymore and when they have to get more.  There are green ones, red ones, orange and blue ones. Some are oval, some round, some square, some rectangular.   My parents had this problem, my aunts too.  Not so much my sister, but definitely my neighbors.

I have 10, count them, 10 medications in my medicine drawer.  Now I’m sure some of you have fewer, and some of you have even more. How did this happen?   When did this creep up on me?  How did I get here, taking 10 medications?

In fact, I am a pretty healthy person. I must say that most of my bottles of pills are supplements but there are a few that are prescriptions. I have a pretty good handle on when to take each one: Before a meal, after a meal, on an empty stomach, on a full stomach, just before bed, right after breakfast. Some can’t be taken together and others are every other day. It seems to be a pretty easy task for me to keep them all straight but not all of us have it that easy.

The timing of our medications is an absolute necessity in order for us to benefit from their use.

I’m going to borrow some information from AARP about how to manage your medications.

A recent study found one-fifth of older adults take medicines for one health problem that may worsen another condition. In other cases, a different prescription or over-the-counter drug or even a food or beverage can change the way medicine acts in your body.

There is a lot that you can do to make sure medication helps, rather than hurts, you.

Let’s look at some hints for keeping your medications straight.

Start by writing down all the meds that you take including over-the-counter, prescriptions, supplements, vitamins and occasional pain killers.  Keep this list in an easy to find place, be sure your family has the list (including doses and dates), and keep it in your wallet as well.  You may also put the list in a Vial-of-Life container that you keep in the freezer.

When you get a new prescription, understand when, how often, and how much to take each time.  Read labels carefully and ask if you need to avoid certain food or drinks.   There often are warning labels on the bottles so be sure to pay attention to those.  Ask specifically whether the new prescription means you should stop taking one of your other drugs or avoid certain OTC treatments. Try to find a pharmacist with whom you are comfortable and stay with him or her.   Since we often have more than one doctor, the pharmacist can be the one constant in the mix of your health-care team.   He or she can get to know you and can spot any new medicines and ones that shouldn’t be used together.

Managing multiple medications can be challenging. To stay organized ask your pharmacist to put medicine in bottles with large, easy to read print.  Store each drug in the original package, and ask for easy-off lids.  If you can’t get the top off, or it is hard to do so, you may opt to just not take it and that’s not good.

Lastly, develop a system for taking meds at the right time.  Use a chart, a pillbox, or connect it to a daily chore such as brushing your teeth or set alarms for a particular time of day.

Our meds, whether you take 10 like me, or 20 due to difficult health issues, are there to help us. If taken improperly they can harm us.  So be smart, and pay attention.