Lifestyle

Mistake a quick dose of reality

Who would ever have thought that I would be the one to do it? I am so careful with medications that I take. However, because I was in pain and did not pay close enough attention to the doctor, I mixed up two medications. Instead of taking one for five days, I took it for six weeks! The other I took for five days. This was exactly opposite of what I was to do.

One pill was to help my bladder and the other my painful knee. My bladder did not improve, but, boy oh boy, was the knee pain gone. My error did not cause any problems, but I was lucky. What if it had been a heart medication? I had been in such pain that I made a mistake. Have you ever mixed up medications?

We seniors are not the largest group in our population, but we take more medications that any other age group – 33 percent of all medications. It is not uncommon for a 70-year-old to take six to 10 medications daily. Add to that the fact that many use over-the-counter products as well as herbs and home remedies and we are, as a group, in danger of serious problems.

Taking several medications and other products together can cause problems for our kidneys and livers that cannot process the drugs as well as they did when we were in our 40s. Sometimes we do not eat properly or drink enough water. This all sets up for the possibility of illness, drug interactions and even death.

What can we do to ensure we are not misusing our medications? What can we do about remembering to take our prescriptions? Lots of things.

Missing medications is not uncommon and there are a number of reasons misuse occurs, including:

• Not understanding or hearing dosage instructions

• Having a confusing dosage schedule

• Forgetting to take a medication

• Fear of becoming dependant

• Not being able to afford the medication

• Unable to open the bottle easily

• Impaired vision – you cannot read the label or find dropped pills

The best way to avoid misuse is to start with your primary care doctor, especially if you see more than one doctor. Tell him/her of all the medications you take to learn what each does and whether or not you still need to take all of them.

The second thing to do is to use just one pharmacy. The pharmacist will have a list of all the prescriptions you use and will keep an eye out for potential problems. Some of us mail away for our prescriptions and those companies have pharmacists you can talk to, too, who will do the same thing.

When a person feels overwhelmed with the number of medications he needs to take there are ways to ease the tension. This happened to my mother. She went from taking no medication to six pills plus Tylenol, some taken once a day, others several times a day and one at night. She got a pill case that allowed her to organize her pills according to the time of day she took them.

She also devised a chart listing her prescriptions and the time of day she took them. When she took a pill she checked it off on her chart to make sure she made no mistakes.

Doctors prescribe medications when there is a health concern or illness. We all need to be part of a team with them to stay well and energized. We all must be careful with our medications and use them properly.

If it just becomes too overwhelming, ask a family member or friend to help you set up a schedule for taking your medication and fill the pill organizer for you.

Seniors, step out and take charge of your medications. Do not be a doofus like me.

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