The more medicines an older adult takes, the greater the chance of potential problems. There are a number of steps older adults and their caregivers can take to reduce the odds of a medicine-related mishap, according to Daryl Schiller, PharmD, Director of Pharmacy Services, and Maureen Fallon, RN, MPA, Administrator of Home Care, at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. To stay safe, they recommend:
Get all your drugs from one pharmacy.
This way, the pharmacist will know all the drugs you take and can alert you and your doctor to potentially dangerous drug interactions. “So many people have different drugs prescribed by different doctors,” Dr. Schiller says. “The pharmacist can see the big picture. In some cases the pharmacist can recommend that the doctor prescribe a similar drug that won’t cause interactions, or can tell you when to take each medicine so they won’t interact.”
Tell your pharmacist about which over-the-counter medicines you’re taking.
These drugs can cause drug interactions too. “For instance, if you take a sleeping pill and take a sedating antihistamine on top of it for allergies, you could be putting yourself at risk of dizziness and falls,” Schiller says.
Keep a list of medications.
Whether it’s on an app or written on paper, a list of medications should include the name and dose of the drug and how often the person takes it. If you’re taking a family member to the hospital, bring the list with you. “It’s important to keep the list updated, and bring it to every doctor visit,” Fallon says. She recommends keeping all medication in the bottle it was dispensed in, so you can see the name, dose and expiration date of the drug.
When your doctor prescribes your medication and when you pick it up from the pharmacy, ask questions. What are the side effects? When should you take it? How much? Can you take it with food? How should you feel if the drug is working properly? Can you crush or split the pill if you have difficulty swallowing it? What happens if you miss a dose?
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you can’t afford your medication.
They may be able to find you less expensive alternatives, or find resources to pay for the drugs. Schiller advises, “Don’t make decisions on your own to stretch medications by cutting them in half because you can’t afford the co-pays.”
Montefiore Nyack Hospital Home Care is proud to be a New York State Medicare Certified Home Health Agency and is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations. Call 845-638-8700 if you would like more information.