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Be Smart About Medicine

Tips to manage multiple medications for someone in your care

At the Pharmacy

1. Be sure your loved one brings his or her personal-medication record, along with the new prescription, to the pharmacy. If the pharmacy keeps a list of the medicines the person takes, ask your loved one to request a copy to make sure the information is current.

2. Remind your family member to pause before signing for the prescription. The signature confirms that the pharmacist offered counseling and the recipient is declining the counseling. If the loved one would like to talk to a pharmacist, encourage him or her to let the clerk or the pharmacist know that he or she has questions and wants counseling, before signing for the medicine.

3. Remind your loved one to check the drug's name and directions when he or she receives the prescription, to be sure they are the same as what the doctor ordered.

4. Ask your family member to confirm the Rx directions with the pharmacist. Be sure the loved one asks about food-drug interactions, alcohol-drug interactions, and necessary monitoring tests. Remind the patient to give the pharmacist an updated list of medications, so the pharmacy can check for possible interactions, too.

If you help your loved ones follow the simple steps outlined above, they can avoid needless medical problems. About 1.5 million adverse drug events occur annually in the United States—thousands result in fatalities—and many of them are entirely preventable.

And, finally, also remember the helpful tips for home, listed below.

At Home

Suggest the use of a pill organizer to take the guesswork out of taking pills and to help make sure your family member has taken all pills on time.

Check in to make sure that your loved one fills the organizer once a week. Many have both a.m. and p.m. sections for each day.

Read carefully the documentation that comes with the medicine. It has important information about warnings, dosage, side effects, and storage.

Your family and friends don't have to become statistics. Everyone can use prescription and over-the-counter medications safely and effectively. You can help the people you care about connect and communicate more effectively with their health care providers and manage their medications for safety, efficacy, and cost. To this goal, AARP has produced "Medicines Made Easy," a brochure that is available both in English and in Spanish.
Take the simple steps outlined here, and you'll have greater assurance that the medications your loved ones take are doing what they were intended to do. Everyone in your family or circle of friends will sleep better with that confidence. And remember, Mother knows best: "Never put anything in your mouth if you don't know what it is."

All the best,
Elinor Ginzler

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