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Older Adults : Using Medications


Learning to Manage Multiple Medications

The average American takes between two and seven prescription drugs daily. Managing these medications properly is essential for good health.

Medications improve quality of life and save lives, but they must be taken properly to do so. It’s crucial that you read all medication labels carefully and heed any drug, alcohol or food interaction warnings given.

Taking care

The following guidelines from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality can help you manage your medications safely:

  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications, supplements and remedies you take. Be sure to include prescription and nonprescription drugs, vitamins and herbal remedies.

  • Ask your doctor to review your medications. To help with the review, create a list including the name of each medicine, the doctor who prescribed it, the amount you take and the number of times you take it each day.

  • Be sure you know how to take each of your medications. This includes knowing how much to take; whether to take it with food or water; what to do if you forget a dose; and what foods, drinks and activities to avoid.

  • Know which side effects to expect and what to do about them. Many medications have known side effects that may occur, depending on your health and reaction to the drug’s ingredients. Knowing which ones are normal and which require medical attention is important.

  • Get prescriptions filled far enough in advance to avoid running out. This is especially important if you take maintenance medications for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

  • Follow any warnings regarding food or alcohol interactions with your medicines. Many medications interact with alcohol.

  • Purchase all your prescription medications at one pharmacy. Drug interactions are more likely to be caught if one pharmacist fills all your prescriptions.

Finally, don’t take someone else’s prescription medication. Just because two people have the same condition doesn’t mean they can take the same medication.