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Use Medications Safely, Properly

August 20, 2013
By JUDITH BLACK , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, more than 60 percent of seniors use prescription medications. Older adults often use over-the-counter drugs, while taking several prescription medications at the same time, too. Although medicines help to keep us safe and healthy, it's important to be careful and make sure you're taking your medication correctly.

Even though medications are good for your health, they can be equally harmful if not used properly. They also can come from a variety of sources. Be sure to inform your doctor about all the medications you currently take and how each prescription is affecting your health. Just follow these simple steps:

1. Take all of your medications in a brown bag with you to your next doctor's visit - including your prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and any other supplements you take. This will give you an opportunity to review everything together, get your questions answered or address any issues you might be experiencing.

2. If you don't know why you're taking a drug, ask your doctor. It's very important that you know the role medications play in managing a medical condition.

3. Let your doctor know if you are not taking a medication as directed - for example, reducing, skipping or stopping because of side effects.

4. If cost is an issue or area of concern, ask your doctor about generic equivalents or other lower-cost alternatives.

Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist for details about how to take your prescriptions (with food, for example) or about avoiding certain foods, drinks or activities that are unsafe when paired with your medication.

Safe medication use isn't limited to receiving the correct prescription. Medicine must be used correctly in order to be effective. Also, don't forget to keep your medicine in a safe place where your grandchildren can't get to it.

If you have any questions about your medication, don't hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Dr. Judith Black is the medical director for Senior Markets at Highmark Inc.

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