By Ira Protas, R.Ph. and Kevin Ruedinger Pharm D. R.Ph.
If you’re like many older adults, you may be taking more than one medication on a regular basis. For some, you could be taking multiple medications to treat more than one condition. Whether you’re taking a prescription medication for a short-term condition such as bronchitis or for a long-term condition such as hypertension, it’s important to take your medication as it was prescribed to properly treat your condition.
Studies show people who are prescribed medications miss at least one dose up to 50 percent of the time and up to 25 percent of people who get new prescriptions never even fill them. Sadly, up to 10 percent of hospitalizations could be avoided if patients took medicines as prescribed.
Remember, medications don’t work if you don’t take them. But don’t worry, we have a few tips and tricks to help you manage your medications and stay as healthy as possible.
Know Your Meds
For starters, knowing more about your medicines can help you take them as prescribed. Ask these questions when your healthcare provider writes you a prescription:
What is the medication?
- Make sure you understand the name of the medication.
- Ask if the medication is a brand or generic and which you have been prescribed.
- Ask about the strength/dosage. Many medications come in more than one strength.
Why do you need the medication?
- Will it prevent further problems?
- Does the medication improve or slow disease progress?
- Will the medication relieve symptoms?
How do you take the medication?
- Read the directions for your medications and ask your pharmacist or doctor if the instructions aren’t clear or if you have questions.
- Ask your pharmacist if there are any special instructions about taking the medication. For example, do you need to take the medication with or without food or should you avoid anything while taking the medication?
- Ask your pharmacist or doctor what to do if you miss a dose.
Make sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you stop taking a medication. Side effects occur with many medications. Some are mild, while others can be bothersome. If you stop taking a medication without telling your doctor, treating your condition can become difficult.
You should also talk to them if you have trouble affording your medication. Unfortunately, some medications can be costly. Ask if there are less expensive alternatives to treat your condition. You can also ask if any programs offer assistance in reducing the cost.
Manage Your Meds
There are lots of ways to make managing your meds easier so you won’t miss a dose.
- Use a pillbox. Pharmacies, supermarkets, and online stores sell a variety of pillbox systems. Many of them are fairly inexpensive. Pillboxes can be as simple as one chamber for each day of the week or as expansive as multiple chambers per day with slots for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime. If you take multiple medications, ask a family member or other caregiver for help preparing your medications.
- Getting 90-day supplies will assure that you have a sufficient supply of medication on hand, reduce your number of visits to the pharmacy, and reduce the number of copays. HealthTeam Advantage offers some copay relief on many medications for obtaining a 90-day supply. Ask your Healthcare Concierge for information on which medications and formulary categories (or Tiers) have that feature.
- Use an auto-refill program at your pharmacy in case you forget to refill a medication. Most pharmacies have programs that not only automatically refill your prescriptions when they’re due for a refill but also call your doctor on your behalf to obtain refills if needed. Another service many pharmacies offer includes coordinating all your routine or maintenance prescriptions to fill or refill at the same time. This is called syncing.
- If you are vision-impaired, some pillboxes come in Braille. Although more costly, there are also devices that give an auditory reminder to take your medications.
If your doctor has changed or stopped a medication, ask your pharmacist about the best way to dispose of any unused or unwanted medication.
Remember, it’s important to take your medications as prescribed. It’s also important not to share your medication with anyone, nor take anyone else’s medication. No two persons’ medical conditions are the same.
Ira Protas is a registered pharmacist and HealthTeam Advantage’s Director of Clinical/Pharmacy Operations. Kevin Ruedinger is a Doctor of Pharmacy, registered pharmacist, and HealthTeam Advantage’s Clinical Pharmacist.