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6 Volunteers Who Make a Big Difference and How You Can, Too

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Sharon Stephens — Help Others Manage Medications

It started out with a simple gesture. Sharon Stephens offered to help one of her neighbors in Manchester, N.H., organize and manage her medications.

An elder care specialist, Stephens, 64, knew about AARP's Rx Snapshot, an online "toolkit" anyone can download and print out by going to Create the Good online. Once completed, the toolkit's checklist makes it easy for patients to see exactly what medications they're taking, how much, and why.

Soon enough, word spread around Stephens's apartment building about this new way of managing prescription drugs, and others soon began asking for help. Stephens happily obliged, and for good reason.

In one case, Stephens worked with a 68-year-old woman who, in recording her medications, noted she was taking large amounts of vitamin C every day. Simultaneously, the woman was taking prescription medication for acid reflux.

"So here she was taking in too much acid from the vitamin C, and then she was taking acid reflux medication to stop it," Stephens says. "I asked her who told her to take all this vitamin C. She said she thought it would be a good idea."

The exercise, says Stephens, made the woman realize that she needed to heed the top advice from the toolkit: show doctors all the completed forms and talk to them about every supplement and medication listed.

Stephens, who's since moved to Nashua, says experiences like that are gratifying, because many people don't know when they are at risk for harmful drug and supplement interactions. "I just love it when you have these 'Aha!' moments with people and realize you've done something good," Stephens says.

How it works. Help relatives, friends or neighbors manage their medications safey, more effectively and more affordably. Ask them if they have a list of all the medications they’re taking, and if they don’t, help them to compile one. Encourage them to review the list with a pharmacist or physician. You can also organize a medication-review session at an event — for example, a health fair or flea market — and arrange for pharmacists to attend and review people's medications.
Time it takes.
You can help someone in a matter of minutes. Organizing an event requires a commitment of hours over a number of days.
Go to Rx Snapshot at Create the Good online.

Additional reporting by Derrick Z. Jackson, Marie Cocco and Mary Ann French.

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