Chances are, if you have a chronic condition(s), you are taking at least one prescription medication. In fact, the Health Policy Institute found that about 66% of adults in the United States take prescription drugs.
The reality is that the more medications you take, the greater your risk of experiencing dangerous side effects due to medications interacting or because you mistakenly take the wrong drug or dose.
Whether you are on one medicine, or several, working together with your physician and pharmacist can decrease chances of experiencing adverse reactions, amongst other things. We put together this guide to help you manage your prescription medications safely and effectively.
What is a chronic condition?
A condition is defined as “chronic” when it meets the following criteria:
- last one year or more and
- requires ongoing medical attention or
- limits activities of daily living or
Chronic conditions are usually a result of tobacco use, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and alcohol abuse.
The five common chronic conditions are:
Why is managing your medications important?
Medication errors can easily happen, and the chances increase with the more drugs you are on. These accidents can range from missing a dose to overdose.
You can reduce potentially fatal errors when you have a system to manage all your medications effectively.
Tips on how to manage your prescription medications
The FDA reports that 40% of people over 65 years old are taking an average of five medications. However, anyone taking at least one medicine is at risk for adverse effects like drug interactions.
Therefore, it’s critical for patients, caregivers, physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals to collaborate to avoid medication-related issues. When a cohesive healthcare team is formed, it leads to better health outcomes for the patient.
Here’s what you can do to manage your prescription medications:
Keep an up-to-date medication list
No matter how many medicines you take, be sure you have a list of all current medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbals, and nutritional supplements. Be sure to include dosage, frequency, and side effects.
It’s also helpful to make notes of any adverse effects you may have experienced from previous medications, including allergies to any medicines.
Be sure to give a copy of this list to all your healthcare providers, including your primary care doctor, any specialists, caregivers, and your pharmacist.
Stick with one pharmacy
Having your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy ensures the pharmacist will know all medications you are currently taking. It also allows them to screen for possible drug interactions, duplications, and other issues.
Sometimes using a different pharmacy is unavoidable (i.e., if you’re out of town, your regular pharmacy is out of medication, etc.) Keeping an up-to-date medication list is also essential for these situations.
Follow the directions given by the doctor, pharmacist and drug company
All medications come with instructions, do’s and don’t, and warnings. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what you are taking, why you are taking it, when and how often you should take it, what to do if you forget or miss a dose, typical side effects, and what to do if you experience certain reactions.
Don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist and/or physician questions to help you better understand your prescription medications.
Create a dosing schedule reminder
Whether it’s a spreadsheet on your computer or a medication reminder app on your phone, another way to manage your medications successfully is to set up reminders.
In addition to listing all your medicines and times they need to be taken, you should include information such as how to store medication, any special instructions (i.e., take with food), and the reason why if it’s to be taken “as needed”.
Review your prescription labels often
Be sure you are reviewing the information on your medications often. In particular, you want to check the medicine’s expiration date and refill information for prescriptions.
If it has expired, you want to be sure you discard the medication properly. When you start to run low on a prescription with a refill, you should call the pharmacy before you run out to decrease the risk of missing a dose.
When you need a refill on a drug with no refills, call your doctor’s office as soon as possible to allow time for them to call in an updated prescription to your pharmacist.
A yearly “brown bag” review
When it comes time for a yearly checkup with your physician, put all medications, prescriptions, otc, vitamins, supplements, etc., into a bag and take them with you to your appointment.
This will allow your healthcare provider to review everything you are currently taking and make adjustments or suggestions where necessary. Our health and bodies are constantly changing, so it’s possible to need changes to your medications as well.
The secret to successfully managing your medications is through organization and communication. Find a system that works for you (and your caregiver) to set your medication schedule for success. Communicate with your doctors, pharmacist, and other healthcare team members to ensure you get the best possible outcomes for your overall health.
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