Older Adults Should Be Mindful of Certain Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medication Safety Tips

The older you get, the more likely you are to use additional medications that increase the risk of side effects and interactions

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medication Safety Tips for Older Adults
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February 19, 2019

We typically take more medication as we get older, increasing the chances of side effects and drug interactions. As we age, physical changes can affect the way medicines are handled by our bodies, leading to potential complications. So regardless of age, we need be mindful when taking medications, herbal preparations, and supplements to avoid drug interactions, side effects and dangerous complications.

Take Medicine as Prescribed

Taking medication as it was prescribed is the rule, but that rule doesn't always get followed. In fact, many people skip doses, abruptly stop taking medication without consulting the prescribing doctor, or take medication prescribed to someone else. Any of these situations can be dangerous, potentially causing unforeseen effects. Don't stop taking your medication unless advised by a doctor, even if you're feeling better or think it isn't working. If you are having side effects, talk to your doctor about them. And don't take medication prescribed to someone else. It can cause dangerous interactions with other medications or other adverse side effects depending upon your health.

Keep a Medication List

We don't like to think of emergencies, but they do happen and sometimes at the most inconvenient times. While you may think you will be able to tell first responders about the medications you take, stress and anxiety can cause you to forget them. Moreover, if you are unconscious, there is no way for you to communicate your medications. For this reason, it's a good idea to have an up-to-date list of all medications and dosages with you, especially when traveling. Consider giving a copy to a friend or loved one you trust. Don't forget to write down why you are taking a particular medication and how often you take it.

Be aware of Potential Drug Interactions and Side Effects

Drug interactions can occur when:

  • One drug affects how another drug works;
  • A medical condition you have makes a certain drug work differently;
  • Herbal preparations or supplements affect the action of a drug;
  • A food or non-alcoholic drink reacts with a drug;
  • An alcoholic drink interacts with a drug.

Read all drug information carefully when you get your prescription, including the possible interactions and side effects. If you have any questions, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If you are seeing more than one doctor, make sure to let each one know about all medications, herbal preparations and supplements you take as it could affect which medications you are prescribed.

Some medications can cause side effects similar to health problems that occur in older adults (such as memory difficulties), so ask your healthcare provider if any new health problems you are experiencing could be due to medications.

Review Medications with Your Health Care Provider

You should be discussing all medications and dietary supplements that you take with your doctor at each visit. This is to ensure that the medications you take are still necessary. Reviewing your medications with your doctor at least once per year can help you avoid interactions, reduce side effects, and lower costs.