Here's how to get organized and keep yourself on track with taking your medications correctly.
Do you take five or more prescription medications? If so, you’re not alone. Nearly 40% of older adults take multiple prescription medications to manage their health.
The more medications you take, the easier it is to make a mistake — whether that means missing a dose, taking the wrong pill or taking too much of a certain prescription.
So how do you stay safe and keep your medications in order? Here’s some advice from a Geisinger pharmacist.
6 tips to manage your medication
According to LuAnn Domenico, pharmacist at Geisinger Mt. Pocono, the trick to managing multiple medications is to get organized.
“Make sure your medical team and pharmacist know about all the medications you’re taking,” says Domenico. “And once you have your prescriptions, there are simple steps you can take to keep track of them.”
Ready to get your medications in order? Get started with these tips:
1. Make a medications list
Keep an up-to-date list of all the medicines and drugs you’re taking. Include prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements and herbs. Share this list with your doctor, pharmacist, other members of your healthcare team, family and caregivers.
2. Keep accompanying information handy
Start a file for the paperwork that comes with your prescriptions. That way, you and your family members or caregivers will have something to refer to if you have questions about dosages or side effects.
3. Use one pharmacy
Using one pharmacy keeps all your information in one place. And that makes it easier for your pharmacist to watch out for drug interactions and possible side effects.
(By the way, did you know Geisinger has a pharmacy?)
4. Make a chart or use a calendar
Calendars and charts are great ways to keep yourself on schedule. Write your dosing times down in advance and check them off as you go.
This is an especially smart move for medications you take only weekly or monthly, like prescription vitamin D, medications to prevent osteoporosis and injectable diabetic products.
5. Use a pill organizer
Many organizers are available with compartments for each day of the week — or even each part of the day. These take the guesswork out of taking your medications correctly.
Other options for better organization? Medication synchronization, where all your prescriptions are due for renewal at the same time; automatic refills through mail-order; and prepacked medication cards.
Prepacked medication cards contain all timed medications together, and they’re designated for a certain time of the day. This option isn’t available everywhere, but most Geisinger pharmacies will help with this whenever possible.
6. Get into a routine and set alarms
Take your medications at the same times every day and set alarms on your watch or phone to remind you.
Always take your medications exactly the way they’re prescribed. If you miss a dose and don’t know what to do, call your pharmacist or healthcare provider for advice.
Be prescription proactive
Managing multiple medications well is especially important for older people, who are more susceptible to complications from overmedicating. They’re also at more risk for dangerous drug interactions and cognitive impairments that can affect daily activities, such as driving and using cooking appliances in the home.
“Problems with medication management are a major reason many older people end up in nursing homes,” says Domenico. “But patients of all ages are readmitted to the hospital because of drug interactions or failure to follow instructions. We can change that with education and open communication — especially if a new medication is prescribed.”
If medication cost is an issue, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. “You may be able to replace some brand-name drugs with generics. Financial aid might also be available,” says Domenico.
If you’re trying to manage multiple medications for yourself, or you’re a caregiver for someone else and you have questions about prescriptions, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Taking a team approach is the safest and smartest way to go.