The older we get, the more our bathroom cabinet seems to bulge with medications – jars upon jars of them.
It can make the task of managing your medications feel like a full-time job.
But it doesn’t have to be that daunting.
By putting in place some basic practices and following the tips below, you can take the stress out of your daily medication regime and ensure you never miss a tablet.
Create a medicine schedule
If you take multiple medicines, creating a medicine schedule is a great way to manage your daily medications.
You can record:
- all the prescription and non-prescription medicines you take including any vitamins, herbals and natural medicines.
- what each medicine is for
- the daily dosage, when to take it and what to take it with
- when it expires and should be returned to your pharmacy for disposal
There are two basic types of medicine schedules.
Paper schedule – Record all the details you need on paper or in a notebook. Download one here or create a similar one yourself.
Electronic schedule – MedicineWise, for example, offers a very hand free app which allows you to create lists, schedule reminders on your phone and store health information for yourself or your caregivers.
Use one pharmacy
It can be tricky enough keeping track of all your medications without purchasing them from multiple pharmacies.
Using just one pharmacy, such as this one at Seaford, reduces the likelihood of any negative drug interactions and errors in the management of your medications.
Make yourself known to your pharmacist so they can assist you with your medication plan.
If you are still struggling to manage your medications, talk to your pharmacist about medication organizers to assist you in taking all of your medicines.
These may include blister packs which they can fill for a small fee.
You can also talk to your pharmacist about a Dose Administration Aid (DAA).
If you live at home, have a valid government-issued concession card and are taking five or more prescription medicines, you may be eligible to receive this device which assists people having difficulty with their medicine schedule.
Consider a Home Medicines Review
You may wish to consider asking your doctor about a Home Medicines Review (HMR).
This is designed to help older Australians, anyone on five or more medications and anyone confused by or who struggles to remember to take them.
This program involves your doctor writing you a referral for the pharmacist of your choice who will talk with you, ideally in your own home, about all the medicines you take.
They will then write a report for your doctor who can make any appropriate changes to your medications and dosages.
The program was actioned as a response to the 140,000 Australians who are hospitalised each year with reactions to the medicines they take.
As many as 69 per cent of these cases could have been avoided with better management plans.
Older Australians are particularly vulnerable.
You may be charged for visiting your doctor but the review by your pharmacist is government subsidised and comes free of charge.
Take medications as directed
It’s important to read the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) that accompanies all of your medicines.
Store it somewhere handy and always take your medicines as directed by your doctor.
If you forget to take a dose, follow the advice on the CMI or talk to your doctor.
Do not stop taking the medication unless directed to by your doctor.
The reality is that most medications come with side-effects and we become more sensitive to them as we get older.
Some may be negligible, others may be more serious.
Take note of any side-effects you notice and report any serious ones to your doctor immediately.
Don’t mix medications
Many medications interact with others in ways that may be detrimental.
They can counteract each other rendering them impotent or they may combine to produce a negative and potentially harmful outcome.
Before taking new prescription or non-prescription medications, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist to enquire about how they will interact with what you are already using.
Always store your medications in an accessible, safe, cool and dry place away from direct sunlight.
Some may need to be refrigerated.
Wherever possible, store them all together to make them easier to access when needed and reduce the likelihood of missing a dose.
Book an appointment
If you are taking multiple medicines, you should visit your doctor at least every six months to have them reviewed.
Ask your doctor whether you need to remain on all of your medicines or need to change dosages.
You may also wish to consider asking about a Home Medicines Review.
It’s important to talk openly and honestly with your GP so you can work together on a plan aimed at improving your overall health.
Ask about making changes to your lifestyle including diet and exercise.
Remember illicit substances should never be taken with prescription medications and this nearly always applies to alcohol as well.