Nearly everyone in our country has taken some sort of medication throughout their lifetime. As one ages, their need for various medications may begin to grow significantly. Even though medications are meant to improve one’s quality of life, they may come with uncomfortable side effects; in addition, taking medications incorrectly or mixing them with another medication could have detrimental results. In order to be as safe as possible, it is important to understand how and when each medication should be administered, as well as communicate with your doctor any concerns or questions.
What Should I Do Before Starting a New Medication?
Before you ever start a new medication, it is important to give your doctor or medical professional a list of all the medications you are taking (both prescribed and over-the-counter). The reason for this is because there are certain medications that could cause serious problems and be dangerous when they are mixed together. For instance, a few over-the-counter pain killers can have a negative effect when used with a blood-thinning medication. It is also important to understand why you are taking each medication and the dosage.
Sometimes doctors do not always go into much detail about the medications they are prescribing. To make sure you are prepared, there are questions that could give you a better understanding of what you will be taking. The National Institute of Aging (NIA) has created a list that would be beneficial to ask your doctor. These include:
- What is the name of the medicine and why am I taking it?
- What medical condition does this medicine treat?
- How many times a day should I take it? At what time(s)? If the bottle says take “4 times a day,” does that mean 4 times in 24 hours or 4 times during the daytime?
- How much medicine should I take?
- Should I take the medicine with food or not? Is there anything I should not eat or drink when taking this medicine?
- How long will it take this medicine to work?
- Will this medicine cause problems if I am taking other medicines?
- Is it safe for me to drive while taking this medication?
- What does “as needed” mean?
- When should I stop taking the medicine?
- If I forget to take my medicine, what should I do?
- What side effects can I expect? What should I do if I have a problem?
- Will I need a refill? How do I arrange that?
Most medications come with some sort of side effect. Typically, when a doctor prescribes a medication, they are assuming that whatever side effects that may occur are not outweighed by the expected benefits. These include what are considered to be more “minor side effects”, such as headaches or dry mouth. However, this is not always the case. If there are any severe side effects, it is important to let your doctor know as soon as possible. These can include severe bleeding, suicidal thoughts, skin rashes, blurred vision, syncope (fainting) etc..
Do NOT ever stop taking a medication or change the dosage on your own accord. By doing so, you are putting your health, and potentially life, at risk. Making your doctor aware allows them to prescribe you another medication that has the same purpose but will hopefully not give the same side effects.
Safety Precautions for Taking Medication
Especially when you are prescribed more than one medication, it is important to keep track of what you are taking, and any directions that they might have. The NIA has also made a checklist of what you can do to help ensure your safety. This list includes:
- Follow Instructions
- Use the Right Amount
- Take Medicine on Time
- Turn on the Light (taking medicine in the dark makes it more likely for a mistake to be made)
- Report Problems
- Tell Your Doctor About Any Use of Alcohol or Tobacco
- Check Before You Stop Taking
- Don’t Share
By going through this checklist, you are more likely to handle your medications in a safer matter.