October: ‘Talk about your Medicines Month’

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By BETH DOW, Senior Living Advice

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) created Talk About Your Medicines Month in 1986. It was meant to bring attention to the value of improved medicine communication while promoting both better medicine use and health outcomes. 

According to a CDC study in 2016, 90 percent of all US residents aged 65+ take at least one prescription pill per month. A similar study found that while those 65 and older only make up 13.7 percent of the population, they use 40 percent of all prescribed drugs with an average of 14 prescriptions per year per person.  When you take into account that a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that most Americans do not take their drugs as prescribed, then it is no wonder that the 2nd highest reason for trips to the ER, in those over 65, is due to medication mismanagement.  (The No. 1 reason for visits to the ER is falls.)

Seniors may have trouble taking their medications correctly for a few reasons. There may be confusion surrounding what is prescribed, number of doses, and timing. Or they may not perceive their illness to be severe or threatening and therefore are not as diligent in taking their medication as they should be.  

Many people believe that it is their doctors who are the ones that will help them monitor their medications and be available to answer any questions; when in fact, it is your pharmacist.  

It is recommended that at least once a year, you take a list of all your medications and any over the counter supplements to your pharmacist.  Ask if there are any medications that may be causing a drug-on-drug or food-on-drug interaction. Ask if any appear to be duplicates or partial duplicates of other medications and if you can possibly reduce the number of your medications.  And ask when and how you should be taking each medication to ensure its effectiveness. 

If you are taking more than five medications; if you take medication more than once a day; if you have missed a medication dose in the last six months; if you do not have anyone helping monitor your medications; or if you have made an ER visit in the last year … you are at risk for a medication error that could have very negative consequences.  

There are things you can do. 

First, make that visit with your pharmacist to go over your medications. While there, you may want to look into medication “blister packs”.  This is where your pharmacist prepacks your medications so you are not opening bottles and organizing your medications on your own.  You just open one packet and take the medications that are needed.  

You may also want to look into automatic medication dispensers.  These are filled once a month or once a week, depending on the number of times a day medications are needed.  It is timed to “alarm” when it is time to take your medication.  Ensuring that you are not only taking the right medication but that you are always taking your medication on time.  

Make October the month you take control of your meds and control of your life! 

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Beth Dow is a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Educator, CAEd and Geriatric Care Manager. Readers can contact her at [email protected].

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