55 PLUS - Simple strategies help manage medication

Communicate with your doctor about what, how much and how often you're taking medication.


Juggling several different medications requires effective management. Follow instructions and be sure to ask questions. If prescriptions have stickers on them that recommend avoiding certain foods while using the medicine, pay attention. They are on the label for a reason.

In addition to minding potential interactions, have a system in place to help you remember to take your prescriptions at the appropriate times. Also have a plan about what to do if you can't remember if you just took your medicine or not.

Managing medications, especially for seniors, who may use more of them than others, is an important part of taking charge of your health. Watch out for side effects: they could in general diminish your quality of life, such as an upset stomach every day or dizziness, which could contribute to a dangerous fall.

According to diabetes.com, some tips for remembering to take your medications include: marking an "X" on a calendar when you have taken your medications for that day, as well using as a daily or weekly pill box. You can also use daily habits as reminders, such as brushing your teeth right after taking your pills. The website also suggested that you check to make sure you don't run out of your prescription before refilling it.

Many of these concerns can be addressed by having good communication with your doctor. Ask questions and make sure you get the answers and dialogue you need.

"Medications save lives and enable people to live longer, fuller and more comfortable lives. However, all medications have side effects and the more medications we take, the greater the opportunity to have these drugs interact with each other, which leads to even greater and more serious side effects," said Dr. Joanne Perez, internal and geriatric medicine with Providence St. Mary Physician Group.

"When faced with a specific symptom, such as a cough or dizziness, I personally review the patient's medication list before I think of anything else. Side effects are so common and are often times overlooked," Dr. Perez said. She suggested that sometimes, simply adjusting or discontinuing a medication made all the difference.

Dr. Perez had a few tips on how to manage medications safely and effectively:

"Keep a list of all your medications, both prescriptions and over the counter, with you when you go to your doctor's visits. This is the most important piece of advice that I can tell all patients. Indicate the dosage, how many pills you take and how often. This will clarify what you are actually taking at home and help your doctor in recognizing side effects and also in deciding what kind and dose of medication to add should a medical condition necessitate it."

Another suggestion: Use a pill box. This will keep your medications organized and keep you from missing doses or taking extra. This is especially helpful if you or a loved one is having memory problems. The pill box will help you avoid the "Did I take my pill or not?" dilemma.

Research your medications, according to Dr. Perez. Ask your pharmacist and be careful about the Internet sites you visit to research. Ask your doctor to recommend safe and trustworthy websites.

Be aware if you are on medications easily affected by other drugs or diet. Ask your doctor if any of your current medications would potentially interact with a new prescription.

"Report side effects to your doctor," she said. "Although a lot of side effects can be mild, and can go away with prolonged use, some side effects can start off mild and build up over time."

Make medication management a habit. "Pick specific times for taking your medications. Make a schedule that you use every day," she said. If you have a pill to take once a week, pick your favorite day, and make it a habit so you fit it into your routine.

"Medications are an integral part of our health and should be prioritized and organized much like we do our household and finances. If managed correctly, medications can provide us with longer, fuller and healthier lives. You pay for it, you take it everyday, so invest time in it. Make your medications work for you," Dr. Perez said.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.


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