I'm really worried about my dad and his medicine. He is in is mid-70s, lives alone and has several health problems. He takes a number of medications-both over-the-counter and prescriptions. He sees two specialists and a family practice doctor -- but I'm not at all sure any of them are monitoring his total medication intake. How can I help him with this?
Your father may or may not have a problem with his medicine mix, but many senior citizens do. Medco Health Solutions, Inc., the nation's leading provider of pharmacy health-care services, monitors seniors' medicine use. They came up with these disturbing statistics.
¢ The number of senior citizens subjected to a potentially dangerous over-medication has more than doubled since 1999, as more prescription drugs are prescribed by more doctors and filled at more pharmacies than ever before.
¢ One in four seniors sees four or more physicians, however, nearly one in 10 seniors was prescribed medications by six or more different doctors in 2002.
¢ One in three used four or more different pharmacies and one in seven seniors used five or more pharmacies to fill prescriptions.
Blue Cross Blue Shield offers some tips especially for seniors about medication safety. Maybe some of these will help you help your father:
¢ Make sure your primary doctor knows about every prescription and nonprescription drug you are taking, including herbal remedies and nutritional supplements -- even your daily multivitamin.
¢ Follow your doctor's directions exactly. The Food and Drug Administration reports that 40 percent to 75 percent of all older adults take their medications at the wrong times or in the wrong amounts. Make sure you understand how and when to take all your medications.
¢ If you have trouble reading labels, ask for large-print type on your prescription labels. A magnifying glass and a bright light also can help. Don't reach for your medicines in the dark -- it's too easy to mix them up.
¢ Develop a system for keeping track of your medications. For instance, you can start your day by sorting your medications into separate dishes, one for morning pills and one for evening pills.
¢ Always keep taking a drug until your doctor says it's time to quit. Stopping when you "feel better" can lead to unforeseen complications.
¢ Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles and throw out anything that's past its prime.
¢ Don't take anyone else's prescription medicine or give yours to others.
¢ Store your medicines in a cool, dark, dry place. (The medicine cabinet in your bathroom is not a good choice. Try a dresser drawer instead.)
¢ Contact your doctor if you experience any side effects -- including dizziness, constipation, nausea, sleep changes, diarrhea, incontinence, blurred vision, mood changes or a rash -- after taking a drug.
¢ Obtain a copy of your complete medical record to give to any new doctor or specialist you see. Be sure to remind them about any medications, chronic conditions, and allergies to medications.
¢ If you have trouble taking your medicines at the same time each day, buy a timer that will go off at set times.