(Photo courtesy Black Health Matters)

By Black Health Matters

Medications play a key role in helping many individuals, especially older adults, maintain their quality of life. However, for some, managing medications to achieve the best outcomes, can be a challenge.

Why is medication management important, and who does it affect?

Medication management is a problem for a lot of people, particularly those with several physical or mental conditions. Many of these individuals are older than the age of 65, a population more likely to take multiple medications and more susceptible to side effects due, in part, to the physical changes that accompany aging.

In fact, according to the American Public Health Association, people age 65 and older make up just 12 percent of the population, but account for 34 percent of all prescription medication use and 30 percent of all over-the-counter medication use. What typically happens is an older adult will see different doctors for different conditions with each prescribing medication separately. As the number of medications increases, so does the risk of side effects and significant interactions, some of which can be serious. Plus, many of these patients are on complicated regimens, which further compounds the situation.

4 tips for managing medications:

Whether you’re dealing with medication management challenges personally, or caring for someone who is, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of the medications doing more harm than good. Here are some tips that can help you, or a loved one, manage their medication.

  1. Find a primary care provider. Designate one primary care provider—it can be a person or a team—to help manage your entire medication list. Seeing multiple doctors with little communication about what medications they’re each prescribing can increase the chance of side effects and significant interactions between medications. Going to the same primary care provider, or team of providers, that are up to date on your medication can help prevent this. Your primary care provider having your medication list available at all times is essential. It should include over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies, in addition to prescriptions. An annual “medication check- up” can eliminate what is no longer needed and ensure all medications are compatible.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen carefully when a medication is prescribed and ask questions to find out the name of the drug, its purpose, proper dosing and potential side effects. It’s important to know what’s going in your body, so don’t be afraid to ask. Take notes and remember prescribed medicines should not be stopped without a provider’s instruction.
  3. Simplify your daily medicine routine. Having to take several different medicines a day at different times is a challenge. Work with your provider to simplify your medication regimen. They can help create a schedule that doesn’t make taking your medication so taxing, which in turn can improve the effects it has on you. Once-a-day dosing, if possible, is ideal.
  4. Fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. Having a trusted pharmacy fill all of your prescriptions can be a big help in managing your medications. By going to the same pharmacy, the pharmacist knows all medications you take and can check for duplicates or possible drug interactions, as well as explain any potential side effects.

Medication management is an ongoing process, one that needs to be adapted continually, especially with changing physical or mental conditions. The use of medications is not something to be taken lightly. Making sure they are taken safely is the best way to achieve the optimal outcomes.