Be Alert – Use Medications Safely

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Updated: February 11, 2014

Woman speaking with doctor about medications

Be medically alert regarding prescriptions

Thanks to modern medicine, Americans are living longer than ever before.  The average life expectancy for men is now 75.6 years, and it is 80.7 years for women.  Chances are that as you age, your doctor will prescribe medications for you to manage your medical conditions and help you live a longer and healthier life.  If you are taking any type of medication, there are some things you should keep in mind.

First, it is extremely important that you know exactly what medications you are taking and their dosages, as well as if you are allergic to any medications.  Write this information down on a piece of paper and stick it in your wallet or purse, or list the information in a “notes app” on your smart phone.  You should also give the list to any family member who would be likely to accompany you to the doctor or who would be contacted in the event you have a medical emergency, including your medical alert monitoring company.  Any doctor you encounter will need to know this information to properly diagnose your medical issues and to prescribe additional medication, if needed.

Next, it is very important that as a patient, you advocate on your own behalf.  This means that if you have any questions about a prescription, you should ask them.  Examples would be:  Why are you prescribing this medication to me?  What is the proper way to take this medication?  What should I do if I accidentally skip a dose of this medicine?  Does it matter if you take this medicine with food or on an empty stomach?  What side effects might I experience with this medicine?

Know that your pharmacist is another great resource if you need help.  If you have all of your medications filled in one location, their information system will automatically check for any possible reactions from mixing different types of medications, or a medicine’s relation to any of your known allergies.  If you have difficulty opening bottles, you can let your pharmacist know, and they can provide you with easy-open tops.  Additionally, if you find yourself with questions about your medication that you forgot to ask your doctor, your pharmacist can typically assist with the answers.

Finally, there is a note of caution regarding the use of over the counter medication.  You should check with your doctor before taking any over the counter medication to ensure that it will not cause an adverse reaction with your regular medications.  Once you have received approval from your doctor, make sure to carefully follow the recommended dosage.