How Many Drugs Are You Taking?
What happens to you when you're taking 7, 10, or even 12 medicines a day? Nobody really knows, including your doctors.
Get Your Drugs in Order
The message is clear: It's time to get your medication in
order. Here are a few key principles of medication management for seniors and
their families. (If a family member shows any evidence of memory problems,
someone else should be in charge of their medications.)
- First, make sure all your healthcare providers know all of
the medications you're taking. "Every person, of any age, should carry a
complete list of all the medications they take, by name and dose and dose
schedule," says Anderson. Your list should include not only prescription
medications, but also over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies. Many herbal
preparations can have significant interactions with prescription
- When a new medication is prescribed, ask what it's supposed to do and
you're your dosage is. "The general rule is that you should start with the
lowest possible dose and work up," Duxbury explains. "Ask your
physician if he's starting with the smallest dose."
- Be honest with your doctor about what you're taking. "You might get a
prescription for blood pressure medication and find that you can't afford it,
so you stop taking it -- but you don't tell your doctor," Duxbury says.
"So you go back for a checkup and your blood pressure is still high, so
you're prescribed a second medication. Eventually you'll end up in the hospital
and the doctor has you listed as taking three or four different medications
when you're really not taking anything. So the nurse administers all four at
once, and you have a catastrophe."
- Get to know your pharmacist. "It's a good idea to fill all your
prescriptions at a single pharmacy, and elders may be better off at a 'mom and
pop' drugstore than a chain," says Duxbury. "If it's the same
pharmacist behind the counter every time, who knows who their customers are and
something about them, that person is much more likely to catch a
- Purge your medicine cabinet on a regular basis. "Every six months to a
year, take all your medications -- prescription, over-the-counter, herbal,
everything -- out of your medicine cabinet, throw them into a brown paper bag,
and take them to your doctor," Duxbury advises. "What he thinks you're
taking, what's in your chart, and what's going down your throat are often three