RVNA Today: Managing multiple medications

Millions of Americans take daily medication. In the 65-plus category, 90% do, and almost half of these take five or more drugs. Especially for this age group, dealing with multiple medications every day can be challenging and result in complications. Older adults experience the most significant problems from the improper use of medication and put themselves at risk for dangerous drug interactions and cognitive impairments. Problems with medication management are the primary reasons people can no longer live independently.

There are strategies that make managing multiple medications easier and safer: 1) Keep an up-to-date list of all medications taken and dosages, including over-the-counter supplements. Go over it with your physician regularly and especially when a new medication is added. Keep a copy of the list at home and give a copy to a loved one or friend. 2) Use a pill dispenser or other reminder system with enough compartments to keep track of medications taken throughout the day. Take medications at the same time each day and as prescribed. 3) Refill prescriptions early before they run out. Check expiration dates on existing drugs and discard any that are out of date. 4) Use one pharmacy for all prescriptions. It makes getting refills easier and it can also help to prevent drug interactions when the pharmacist is aware of all prescriptions. Be sure to ask your physician or pharmacist any questions you have about side effects, whether medications are taken on a full or empty stomach and any possible drug, food and alcohol interactions. 5) At your annual physical, take all your medications and supplements with you so that your physician can do a comprehensive review. With age, changes in drug type or dose may be warranted. Taking these steps can provide more assurance that medications will be taken properly and provide the greatest benefit.