Steps to Safely Manage Your Medication

It is quite common to take a medication for a health condition. For people with many chronic or acute health conditions that require drugs, it can be a confusing and time-consuming task keeping track of all your drug plans. Unfortunately, your health depends on you adhering to your doctor’s orders, so taking the right pills at the right time is very important.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 25 percent of people aged 65 to 69 take five or more prescription medications. For people aged 70 to 79, the number of people who are on five or more drugs jumps up to 46 percent.

Issues with Managing Medications

There are challenges involved in juggling multiple drug regimens, including

  • Multiple drugs—if you are taking more than one medication, then it can be challenging to keep track of what to take and when. It may take a serious effort to organize a schedule and coordinate taking all the pills at the correct time.
  • Adverse side effects—not only are you likely to encounter some unpleasant side effects like nausea, insomnia, constipation or dizziness that are associated with specific medications, but you also need to be aware of harmful drug interactions. Make sure your physician knows about all of the medications you are taking.
  • Educating yourself—many patients may know that they need to take a drug to treat a health condition, but they may not understand why they need to take it. Without this information, they may stop taking it which could cause serious health issues.
  • Physical challenges—patients with physical issues like vision loss, hearing loss, dexterity issues or difficulty swallowing may have particular difficulty obeying their doctor’s instructions. It may be necessary to instruct a member of their household or hire a home health aide.
  • Cognitive issues—if the patient has dementia, paranoia or other mental health problems, then remaining on a drug regimen may be quite difficult. Once again, it may be necessary to involve a third party.
  • Finances—if cost is an issue, then obtaining the proper medications may be difficult. You may initially want to ask your doctor for help. If your doctor can’t help you, then you may need to reach out to community groups.

Tips for Managing Your Medications

You may not be able to solve all of your medication problems, but there are steps you can take to remedy at least some of them.

  • Itemized list—if you have difficulty remembering what your medications are, how they help you and what they look like, it is a good idea to make a comprehensive list that includes detailed descriptions.
  • Drug schedule—make a checklist of all your medications including the date, time and dosage to help remind you or your caregiver. If you have access to a computer, you may want to write up a spreadsheet.
  • Ease of access—if you have issues reading small print or opening pill bottles, you should ask your pharmacist for large print labels on easy-to-open bottles.
  • Plan for getting meds—if you have difficulty physically traveling to a pharmacy, then you should organize all of your trips into a single monthly run. If there is one available to you, you may try ordering your medications online and have them deliver it to you.
  • Talk to your doctor—if you are seeing a new physician or are on a new medication, take a complete list of all of the medications you are on when you visit the doctor. Be sure to ask about potential side effects and drug interactions. Ask if it is possible to replace two or more drugs with a single alternative; many drug makers now combine two compounds into one pill.
  • Ask your pharmacist—maintain all or your prescriptions at one pharmacy and get to know the pharmacist. This should make getting your medications easier, and your pharmacist may be able to warn you about potential drug interactions.
  • Use technology—you can probably find an app or online tool to help remind you when to take a pill.

Drug Safety Advice

Although your medications are beneficial, that is only if you use them as your doctor instructs you. Improper use and storage of your medications can put you and your family at risk. Here are some common sense strategies to keep your household safe.

  • Follow instructions—it is absolutely important that you follow your doctor’s orders.  Misuse of medications can lead to serious health problems and, possibly, death. If you are unsure of how to take your medications, call your doctor’s office for guidance.
  • Remain diligent—even if you are not feeling any symptoms, be sure to stay on your medications. You may feel fine, but your health condition could be worsening and producing more serious problems down the road.
  • Report problems—if you encounter any problems with your medications, notify your doctor’s office immediately. If the issues are serious, like chest pains or difficulty breathing, visit your nearest emergency room without delay.
  • Don’t share—it is very important that you not give your medications to others. You may need those pills at some point, but, much more importantly, you don’t know how others may react to those drugs.  If they are allergic or have a serious drug interaction, you could be putting someone’s life in danger.
  • Store drugs safely—put your medications in a cool, dry place where kids and pets can’t see or reach them. Monitor the number of pills left to ensure that no one is stealing any.
  • Throw away extras—if you have pills left after your physician has told you to stop, be sure to dispose of them safely. You can bring them to a drug take back center or to a pharmacy. You may be able to flush some medications, while others you can mix with refuse.
  • Discard pill bottles—dispose of pill bottles with care. Thieves may be able to obtain key health information from bottle labels or even refill prescriptions fraudulently.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.