This article is meant for informational purposes only. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your physician.
Dr. G. M. Siddiqui, M.D
CEO, Medical Services, Lifeline Healthcare.
Older people may take more medicines now than ever before. Keeping track of all your medications and using them appropriately is usually very confusing. It is easy to make mistakes causing serious health hazards. This is, therefore, very important to learn safe use of your medications. Remember, medicines that are strong enough to cure you can also be strong enough to hurt you if they aren't used the right way. Learn to be a smart consumer of medicine. You need to know what medicines you take, what they're for, and when and how you should take them. Here are some tips for safe medicine use:
• Learn about your medicines. Read medicine labels and package inserts. If you have difficulty reading the label, ask a friend, relative or pharmacist for help. If you have questions about the label directions or warnings, ask your doctor or other health care professional.
• Talk to your health professionals about your medical conditions, medicines you take and health concerns. The more you know about your medicines and the more you communicate with your health professionals, the better your chances are for avoiding possible problems with medicines.
• Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, as well as dietary supplements, vitamins and herbals. Also tell your doctor about any allergies you have (foods, other medicines, etc.).
• Ask about special instructions on where to store a medicine. For example, should it be kept in the refrigerator or in a dry place?
• Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
• Keep track of side effects and let your doctor know immediately about any unexpected symptoms or changes in the way you feel.
• Keep a record of the medicines you are taking. If you are taking several different medicines, keeping a record of medication as you take it can help you use medicines properly and safely.
• Use memory aids to help you remember what to take and when. Some people use meals or bedtime as reminders to take their medicine. Other people use charts, calendars, and weekly pill boxes to remind them. Use a system that works for you.
• Ask your medical caregiver about patient records. They now keep these records for you so that you'll be able to keep track of all medicines you are currently taking, as well as allergies and current medical conditions.
• Make sure to go to all appointments for monitoring tests done by your doctor or at a laboratory.
• Go through your medicine cabinet at least once a year to get rid of old or expired medicines. If small children or pets are in your home, it is best to throw away old medicines and dietary supplements in the toilet or sink rather than the trash can.
• Have all your medicines reviewed by your doctor at least once a year. Don't forget to include any over-the-counter medicines you take, as well as vitamins, dietary supplements and herbals. Write them down so you won't forget to mention any.
• Keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
• Questions? Ask a health professional. If you do not understand information on the medicine label, ask your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.