Managing Your Medications Safely
By: Kim Merchant, CRNP
Depending on your medical condition, you may be several different types of medications. It’s normal to take multiple prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, especially as you age, but it’s still important to be sure that all of them work well together.
Medication reconciliation, or comparing your current drugs with any new ones a doctor may recommend, is a safety technique practiced in most primary care offices and hospitals.
All sorts of prescription and OTC medications, and even vitamins and supplements, can interact negatively. Among older people, blood thinners, cholesterol medications and antibiotics are especially likely to interact poorly with other remedies. That’s why a medication checkup—a review of all your medications with your doctor—is worthwhile.
The best way to manage your medications is to talk to your health care provider. During your next appointment, ask for a few extra minutes to discuss your medications. Many people have prescriptions from multiple providers, making them difficult to track. It is important that your primary care provider know all of the medications you are taking. Also, take a few moments to prepare ahead of time so you know exactly what questions you need to ask.
Create a list of every prescription and over-the-counter medication you take, along with all vitamins and supplements. Include the doses in your list. Bring the list to your doctor’s appointment so you can have an informed discussion. Alternatively, you can bring all your medications in their original packages to your appointment.
Talk about any health complaints you have, such as weakness, confusion or loss of appetite, which may be side effects of some medications. It could also point to poor interactions between multiple prescriptions.
Ask your provider if there is a way to simplify the number of medications you take, or when you take them. He or she may be able to present alternatives or guide you through creating a routine that works best for you.
- Kim Merchant, CRNP, is a Geriatric Medicine Nurse Practitioner with University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Group. She can be reached at 410-553-2900.