Are you a senior, or do you have a senior in your life who is in your care? These are important tips in helping keep elders (and others) safe when it comes to managing medications.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist about the medicines you are taking if you have any questions about them – especially about new medicines and how to take them.
At the Doctor
- When you are prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor to clearly print the name of the new medication on the prescription slip. If you cannot read the prescription drug name, it’s possible that your pharmacist cannot read it either.
- Also ask your doctor to print his or her name or circle his or her name on the prescription sheet so that the pharmacist can read it.
- Ask your doctor for information about your new medication so you can be informed about why you are taking it and if it has any known side-effects.
- Tell your doctor about all prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking and include over-the-counter, herbal, vitamin, and dietary supplements.
- Tell your doctor about any allergies you may have.
At the Pharmacy
- Tell your pharmacist about all prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking and include over-the-counter (OTC), herbal, vitamin, and dietary supplements. Better yet, keep all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy so they have a record of all your medications.
- Tell your pharmacist about any allergies you may have.
- Ask the pharmacist for the patient information sheet explaining your new medication. If you have any questions about your medication, be sure to ask the pharmacist.
- Look at the label carefully when you get a new medication. If there is information on the label of your medication that you do not understand, ask the pharmacist.
- Check the labels or ask your pharmacist whether your new prescription medication contains acetaminophen. If it does, check all OTC medications you take while using the prescription medication to see if the OTC drug products also contain acetaminophen. Do not take two medications that contain acetaminophen, as this can be an overdose and can lead to liver damage. Adults should not take more than 4 grams (4000 mg) of acetaminophen per day. KnowYourDose.org provides additional information on taking the correct amount of acetaminophen to avoid overdose. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions.
- Look at your medication label and contents if it is a refill. If the medication looks different from the pills you were taking, tell your pharmacist immediately.
- Count the pills you are given and make sure the number matches the amount indicated on the label – this is especially important with controlled substances such as pain pills. If you are to receive a 10-day supply of a drug to be taken once a day, for example, make sure there are 10 pills.
When you are taking a medication
- Remember to turn on the lights and get your glasses. It’s easy to mistake one pill bottle for another. Make sure you double check and read the label every time.
- Tell your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible if you are experiencing any side effects or changes in the way you feel when taking a new medication.
- Go to your appointments for scheduled laboratory tests or follow-up visits. Monitoring helps doctors and pharmacists know if your medication is working.
- If you take more than one medication use a pillbox or several pillboxes that hold medications for a week, and label your boxes. Example: AM; Noon; PM; Bedtime. Be sure to keep this out of reach of children. Our pharmacists can help you or your loved one by filling up their pillboxes every week. This is a FREE service we offer all of our customers.
- Use a calendar or medication record to help you remember whether you have taken your medications each day and on time.
If you make a mistake with your medication
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you miss a dose of your medication.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you accidentally take more medicine than is recommended.
- If you take too much medication or do not feel well after taking your medication and you cannot reach your doctor or pharmacist, call the call the poison control center immediately. Call 800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States to be connected to a poison control center.
Follow medication safety tips
- Ask your pharmacist or doctor to review the medications you are taking at least once a year.
- Carry a medication record with you in your purse or wallet. Particularly, take your medication record with you to doctor’s appointments and to your pharmacy when you are picking up new medication(s). The list will remind you of all of the medications you are taking and help the doctor and pharmacist manage your drugs appropriately. Be sure to share this list with a loved one so they can provide information and ask questions in the event that you are unable to do so.
- Store your medications as instructed by the pharmacist and keep them in their original containers. Place them in a safe place away from heat, moisture, or freezing temperatures, and away from where food is stored. The bathroom cabinet is not the best place for medications. You may want to store your medications in a locked cabinet, a medication safe, or on a high shelf in a linen closet. Be sure to store them out of sight and reach of children, to avoid unintentional misuse by your child or misuse by family or visitors to your home.
- Keep all medications out of reach of children. Do not believe a safety cap will keep children from opening the medication bottle.
- Dispose of medications that are expired or unwanted. Medications are considered expired if they are one year from the date the prescription is filled, unless otherwise noted. Do not discard medications where small children or pets can find them.Bring your expired and unused prescriptions to a pharmacy for proper disposal.
- Do not flush medications down the toilet to avoid contaminating your local water supply system.
- Do not share medications prescribed for you with anyone else.