So many things change as we age. How the body reacts to a medicine and how medicines effect an older body is a vast sea of question marks. Most people over the age of 45 take on average 4 prescriptions a day and this number increases with age and medical complexity. Ironically, most drugs are FDA approved by tests done on people under 50 but it is well-known that many medicines effect bodies over 65 differently. You must be aware of what you are taking, how to take it, and how it makes you feel.
The AARP has a catch phrase; “conversation is the best medicine” and that sums it up nicely. The best way to know your medicines is to talk candidly with your doctor. It is your responsibility to tell the doctor what supplements you are on, all medicines, and any other lifestyle factors that might affect a medicine in order to get the medicine that will work best for your situation. There are countless options for medicines now, if one does not react well ask about a similar one, you do have options. If something reacts badly for you, talk about it immediately. Even if it was not on the known side effects list does not mean it isn’t worth discussing because as we said before, medicines are not primarily tested on the over 65 group.
In addition to your doctor, do not underestimate the value of a pharmacist. They can’t prescribe medicine but they likely know more about them than even your doctor. It is part of their job to tell you of conflicts in meds that you need to bring up to your doctor. To keep things simple, try to use just one pharmacy so they see your complete history. Take the time to go in person and to ask to see the Pharmacist, most are happy to discuss what you are taking and what precautions to take. Try and go during a less busy part of the day to get the greatest attention.
You should always keep a list of all your medications, what they look like, what your dosage is, and what it treats. Compiling this list helps keep you organized and is a good reference to take with you to the doctor. Posting a copy on your refrigerator or somewhere prominent and giving a copy to a trusted friend is an extra safety net if you are ever in a critical condition and a hospital or paramedic need to know what you are taking in order to administer emergency care. Keep the list updated and keep records of past meds too.
Medicines are very complex and you need to keep informed about all aspects of them. Find out how they react with alcohol or milk, two common things that tend to react badly with medicines. Even if a pill is labeled ‘ok’ with alcohol be careful and test yourself in a safe non driving situation. Ask if it is safe to split a pill, try a smaller dose, or, crush it if you have trouble with a large pill. Look into how the generic compares to the name brand, some are identical and some have very different traits.
Check the AARP guide for many more important questions to ask about medications so you can take them with confidence. Keep communication open and be rigorous with your record keeping so your medicines only help and never hurt you.