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Medication Management: A Brief Guide

If dealing with multiple medications is a daily challenge, many deal with this problem daily.  Nearly 40 percent of older adults take five or more prescription drugs. The best approach: “When you’re using several medications, be proactive,” says Jessica Merrey, PharmD, clinical pharmacy specialist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and certified geriatric pharmacist. “Taking medications as directed by your doctor, getting refills on time, and staying alert to side effects and interactions all help keep you healthy.” These strategies can make managing multiple medications easier—and safer.

Fill your prescriptions at one pharmacy

This makes getting prescription refills simpler—so older adults are more likely to take medications as directed. Using one pharmacy keeps medication records in one place, so the pharmacist can evaluate risk and work with the individual’s doctor to avoid potential problems.

Ask about affordable alternatives

If someone is having difficulty paying for their medications, he or she shouldn’t hesitate to ask his or her doctor about lower-cost options such as generic drugs. Ask the pharmacist to talk with the doctor about other options or guide an individual to prescription-drug assistance programs.

Use a pill dispenser or other reminder system

Use a pill box with compartments for each day of the week—and for morning, noon and night if someone has to take medication several times a day—lets one know at a glance whether he or she taken their medicines yet. Make taking medication part of a daily routine. Try setting a timer on a phone, watch or alarm clock or always take them at the same time, for example, after brushing your teeth in the morning.  Home Health services can help with medication management.

Get prescriptions refilled early

Running out could allow health conditions to worsen. Pharmacists may be able to help individuals get multiple medications on the same refill schedule.

Make a list—and update it regularly

Keep a list of the medications taken—with the name of the drug, the dose, how often it is taken and why. Put a copy in the medical files at home, carry one in your wallet to show your doctor, and give a copy to a loved one or friend in case there is a medical emergency. 

Get a yearly “brown bag” review

Toss everything you take (prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies and supplements) into a bag and take it to your annual checkup for a review. “With age, the body absorbs and breaks down medications differently. Your doctor may change the dose of something you’ve used for a long time,” she says.

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