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Be Smart About Medicine

Tips to manage multiple medications for someone in your care

When I was young, my mother told me, "Never put anything in your mouth if you don't know what it is." Unfortunately, millions of Americans age 50+ do that every day. They consume a host of over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs, hoping to get relief from acute and chronic health conditions.

We are lucky to be living at a time when medicines can help us live longer. However, they only work if we use them wisely.

Knowledgeable use of medications is particularly important for older people, most of whom are susceptible to complications from overmedication. Studies show that older people take more medicines than any other age group. Ninety percent of people age 65+ take medication daily, and nearly half of those take five or more drugs. What's more, older adults experience the most significant problems from the improper use of medicine. They are at increased risk of dangerous drug interactions and, sometimes, cognitive impairments that can affect daily activities, such as driving.

Problems with medication management are the primary reason that people can no longer live on their own. Some older residents are in nursing homes because of medication errors, and many patients are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days of discharge because of drug interactions or not properly following prescription instructions. These problems account for approximately $15 billion dollars of health care system costs.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Everyone can use prescription and over-the-counter medications safely and effectively. If you are taking care of a friend or loved one who takes multiple prescriptions, there are ways for you to help the person better track and manage his or her medications. Use the tips below to help your family members become better medication managers. Their health will benefit, and their wallets may benefit, too!

Personal-Medication RecordBack to Article

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