Jun 27, 2013

Posted by in General, Pharmacy | 1 Comment

Top 10 Medication Safety Tips for Seniors

medication-safetyTwo of the most common causes of senior hospitalizations are the overuse of medications and not taking the medication as prescribed. Seniors are more likely to have drug-related problems because as people get older they tend to have more medical problems and may also be on multiple medications to treat those problems.

I spoke with Cheri Gerdes, pharmacist at Pella Regional Health Center about this and she gave me her Top 10 Medication Safety Tips for Seniors:

1. Keep a current list of all your medications with you (and give a copy to your spouse or relative).

The list should include the medication name, the dose, how often you take it, why you take it, the name and phone number of your pharmacy, your doctor and all allergies. Also include the name of an emergency contact person.

2. Write down any questions you have before you go to the doctor.

3. Bring all your medications with you in their original containers when you visit the doctor. Be sure to include all over-the-counter medications.

4. Don’t stop a medication because it is too expensive, ask your doctor for a cheaper alternative.

All medications have two names, a brand name and a generic name. All brand name medications are under a patent with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be the exclusive maker of that particular medication so they can make money to compensate them for research and development. These companies usually charge a high price since they have no competition. Once a patent has expired, other companies can apply to the FDA to make a similar generic medication. Generic drugs can cost 25 to 80 percent less than their brand-name counterparts, and because they must pass the same FDA tests, generics are safe.

Fewer pills can mean lower bills, so ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can take a higher dose of your medication once a day instead of a lower dose more than once a day. Also ask whether it’s appropriate to buy a higher dose and split the tablet in half.

5. Keep all your prescriptions at one pharmacy.

This allows your pharmacist to double check all drug interactions and allergies every time you get a prescription filled. If you must use two pharmacies for some reason, make sure the local pharmacy has a list of the other medications.

6. Never start a nutritional supplement or over-the-counter product without getting your doctor’s or pharmacist’s approval first.

7. Be aware of side effects, especially when starting a new medication.

Keep track of all side effects in a journal and don’t be afraid to call your doctor or pharmacist if you are experiencing any negative side effects. Many times there is an alternative medication that you could take.

8. Store and take medication properly.

Don’t chew, crush or break capsules or tablets unless your doctor or pharmacist has instructed you that it is safe.

Make sure you finish all the doses prescribed for medications like antibiotics and antivirals. Many people stop an antibiotic when they start to “feel” better. This leads to drug resistance (super bugs) and re-infection because the medication wasn’t given the chance to completely destroy the infection.

Check for expiration dates on all medications and do not take if expired. For medications that do not have expiration dates on them, it is best to discard after one year.

9. Always accept the offer to speak to the pharmacist, especially when filling a new prescription.

Pharmacists are required by law to provide counseling on all new prescriptions. They should tell you both the brand and generic name of your medication, why you are taking it, how you should take it, what the most common side effects are and what you can expect for results.

10. Be an informed and interactive consumer by asking a lot of questions.


I can certainly see where keeping your medications straight gets complicated when you have a chronic illness or multiple health issues. Does anyone else have tips that they’ve used to keep everything organized?

  1. Tamra Knox says:

    I put a weeks supply in an organizer for AM and PM. I have seen some with 4 compartments for AM, Noon, PM and bedtime. It also helps if another person is there to double check your meds with you.

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