MEDICINESMADE EASYThings you need to know aboutmanaging your medicinesbut were afraid to ask.Conversation isthe Best MedicineeLook insid alser onfor your pnmedicatiorecord!
Table of ContentsI. Introduction1II. Before You See the Doctor3Your Personal Medication RecordIII. At the Doctor’s45Questions About Your Medication6Detailed Questions List8IV. At the Pharmacy13What You Can Get From Your PharmacistV. Make Wise Choices and Lowerthe Cost of Your Medications1417Consider Generic Drugs17Research Your Drug Choices18Find Medication Discounts19VI. Manage Your 8Store & Dispose28VIII. Tips for Caregivers31Resources33
AcknowledgementsAARP would like to thank and acknowledge the following contributors:Susan Roche, writer consultantStaff from AARP Health Promotion, PPI, Brand Management andEditorial ManagementPhotographyPaul Fetters (page 5)Piper Gottschalk (pages 1, 12, 25 and 31)Blake Little (page 15)Cade Martin (page 26)ii
I. INTRODUCTIONDrugs can help us live better and longer.But they can also cause problems.Some drug-related problems are small, like an unpleasant side effectthat goes away quickly. Other problems are more complicated, like a newprescription that interferes with a drug or a nutritional supplement thatyour doctor or medical professional may not know you are taking. Otherserious drug-related problems can lead to hospitalization, or worse.You are in the best position to avoiddrug-related problems.Becoming your own medication manager—in partnership with yourdoctor and your pharmacist—has never been more important. This isthe best way to ensure that you use prescription drugs safely, and thatthey’re as effective as possible.There’s a lot you can do—for yourself or for someone in your family.You have the power.to ask questions.to make wise choices.to track your medications.Note: The word “doctor” is used as a general term to represent the medical professional who a consumer or patient goes to for medical health care or services. The words “prescription drugs,” “prescriptions,” “drugs,” and “medications” all refer to drugs that you receive through a prescription from amedical professional. The word “medicines” refers to either prescription or non-prescription drugs.
Why pay more attention to your prescription drugs?Why learn more now about managing medications? First of all, the number of drugs out there has exploded. Doctorscan choose from many more prescription drugs today than even tenyears ago. The number of older people using prescription drugs has alsoexploded.Three-fourths of people 45 or older take prescription drugs. Andthey take an average of four prescription medications each day. Theolder you get, the more likely you are to take more than four dailyprescriptions. Your doctor and your pharmacist need you on their team. Here’s why: Older people vary more among themselves than youngerpeople. It’s impossible to generalize about us. We’re the first toknow if we don’t feel right after taking a drug. So we can tell ourdoctor or medical professional how we usually react to drugs. Medical students don’t receive much education on older peopleand medications. According to the Gerontological Society, mosthealth care professionals do not receive the geriatrics trainingnecessary to respond to the unique and complex health needs ofolder adults. Doing some research on our own can help! Before they go on the market, new drugs undergo limitedtesting on people age 65 and older. Those studies rarely involveolder people who were using other drugs, too. Therefore, thedrugs may work differently when you use them. Also, our bodies change as they age. Some of those changes canaffect how we absorb or digest drugs. Asking questions about thiscan help push our doctor to adjust a drug dosage. Many patients don’t know about the possible risks, sideeffects, or possibly dangerous interactions of the prescriptiondrugs they’re taking. If your doctor doesn’t offer to tell you, ask.The more you know, the safer you’ll be.
II. BEFORE YOU SEETHE DOCTORYou have a doctor’s appointment. Your best move is toupdate your medications list or make one if you don’thave a list of all your medicines, and plan to ask questions. Let these tips help you prepare for your visit:1. Ask for extra time when you make your appointment.One of the best things you can do is ask for drug-consultation timewhen you make your appointment. Explain that you need extratime to discuss your prescriptions. Then, when you check in, tell thereceptionist that you’ve asked for extra time for a drug consultation. . Practice how to manage your visit.At the beginning of the visit, say that you’d like to reserve at least fiveminutes to talk about your medicines. Then be ready to use the extratime well: Think in terms of newspaper headlines to save time. Be brief. Use words like “excuse me” to get your doctor’s attention. You canalso put your hand up whileNo matter what, most ofyou talk. This emphasizesyour need to slow down.us feel nervous when we Consider bringing a lovedone or friend with you.They can be another pair ofears at your appointment.visit our doctor. Tension canmake us forget our questions. But it can also help uspay more attention. . Plan for how you’ll feel.No matter what, most of us feel nervous when we visit our doctor.Tension can make us forget our questions. But it can also help us paymore attention.Try not to waste energy telling yourself to feel another way. Whateveryou’re feeling at the doctor’s is fine. Just use that feeling to make yourvisit go your way. . Be courageous! Tell your doctor the whole truth about all of yourmedicines.Many health studies have asked medical professionals and theirpatients to each list what medicines the patient is taking. About 9times out of 10, they don’t agree!
It is important for you to tell your doctor the truth about all themedicines you take—prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal—toavoid any health risks.So, be honest. You can start with something like “This is hard toadmit” or “This is embarrassing.” Saying one of those can actuallyincrease your courage. Then take a deep breath and keep going. Yoursafety is worth it.5. Prepare a list of all medications you’re taking. Share the names ofall your medicines. Write your list now. And take it everywhere.The best way to track your medications and help your doctor andpharmacist is to create aWhen it comes to yourpersonal medication record.This is a list of all the medihealth, conversation is thecines, including over thebest medicine. There are nocounter drugs and herbal“stupid” questions.supplements, that you take,the doses, and how you takethem. You can use the personal medication record in this guide.Be sure to include the following information: Your personal information, name and contact information. Your doctors’ names and contact information. Your emergency contact information. The name of your medicines, reason for use, form (e.g., pill,liquid, injection), use, dose, and start and stop dates for eachmedicine.Tips to get the most out of your personal medication record: Make copies.Give one to your doctor, one to your pharmacist, one to a loved one.Carry one with you and keep a copy at home. Keep it updated.Note if you are taking new medicines or going off medicines.Record any drug allergies, side effects, or sensitivities you have.
III. At the Doctor’sWhen it comes to your health, conversation is the best medicine. There are no “stupid” questions. There’s also no limitto how many questions you can have. You have the right andresponsibility to ask any questions about how medicationsmay affect you and your life. This is not the time to be shyor quiet. Yes, doctors and medical professionals are busy,but they can, and will, take time to answer your questions.Plan for your visit and leave with the information that you need.Consider these tips: Think about your questions. Write them down and bring them with you. Be ready to ask them, even if you have to ask your doctor ormedical professional more than once to explain the answer. Share the names of all your medicines—everything you take. Ask about any possible side effects of the drugs you are taking. Question if there are any alternatives.You may have new or different questions at each doctor’s appointment.Take this question list to your doctor. Fill it out together. Then, take yourlist to your pharmacist. Your doctor can answer many of these questions,but probably not all of them. Pharmacists have special training to giveyou the medication details you need.
Questions about Your MedicationGet answers about each medication that your doctor prescribes for you.Your NameDoctor’s NameName of MedicationDate1. What is the name of this medication? What is it supposed to do?What are the side effects?2. When do I start and stop taking this medication? How do I take thismedicine?3. Will this medication work safely with the other medications I amtaking?4. Can non-drug actions help my symptoms, in addition to, or insteadof, this drug therapy?5. Are there other medications that I can use? How do they compare insafety, effectiveness and price?
Ask your doctor or medical professional to write on yourprescription form: the reason for your medication, and the brand and generic names of your medication.This helps the pharmacist double check that you receive thecorrect medicine.Additional QuestionsTake a look at the detailed questions on the next few pages. They may giveyou an idea of other questions you may want to ask.
Detailed QuestionsSticking with five main questions is a good place to start. Youmay have many more questions.Consider choosing some questions from this detailed list.Why?Here is my personalmedication record; it listseverything I take. Please lookthis over. Is it still OK to takeeach of these while I takethis new medicine?Why is this the right medicine for me?Is there another kind of treatment I could try first, before taking amedication?If this is a brand-new drug, is there an older drug—with a longer historyof working well—to treat my condition?Is there a medicine with fewer side effects?Is there a medicine that could be better for someone of my age?My gender? My race?Is there a different dosage that could be better for my age? My gender?My race?Is it OK to start out with a very low dose and see how that works?Does a generic drug exist? If so, is the generic version OK for me to take?
Is there a cheaper drug that would work just as well?Is there a drug that could work better for me, even if it’s not on my drugplan’s approved list, or formulary? Can you request that drug for me?What?What will show me that the medicine is working? When will that be?What do I have to do, to find out if the medication is working?What blood tests will I need while on this medicine?What other tests will I need?If tests will be needed, what baseline test do I take now?When?When do I begin this medicine?When will I stop taking it? Or will I take it forever? What should I do if Ifeel better?
When do I take it? Every day? How many times a day? When during theday?If I miss a dose, when do I make it up, or take the next dose?What if I run out?How many refills do I have?How?How do I take this medicine? With or without food or drink?How long before eating or after eating do I take it?Is it OK to take this drug at the same time as other medicines?Can you adjust the instructions for all my medications, so I can takethem all on the same schedule?How do I store this medicine? In the refrigerator? Somewhere else?If I have trouble swallowing, can I split the pill or crush it into food?10
Should I avoid any vitamins or over-the-counter drugs while I’m takingthis drug?Should I avoid any food? Any drink?Should I avoid any activities? What about driving?What side effects are likely? What side effects are more likely in peoplemy age who take this drug?How do I know if what I experience while taking this drug is dangerous?What should I do if I experience side effects? Who should I call if I have aproblem?What’s the most important caution I should keep in mind while takingthis drug?Where?Where can I get printed information to read about this medicine—written for consumers? Can you give me a brochure?11
Can you ask the pharmacy to print out the label for my medication invery large type?Where on the Internet should I look for more information about thisdrug?Where can I get information on prescription assistance programs to helpme afford my medicines?If I buy a medicine from an online pharmacy, what should I look for tomake sure the pharmacy is legitimate? What online pharmacies do youtrust?12
IV. At the PharmacyWhat is a pharmacist, anyhow?No one knows more about a broad range of prescription drugs and othermedications than your pharmacist. Pharmacists study all the aspects ofprescription drug therapy, with an emphasis on safe patient care. TheDoctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree requires at least two years of college followed by four years of professional pharmacy study. To keep theirlicenses, pharmacists must take several new courses every year to everytwo years, depending on the state they are licensed in. Some pharmacists take extra training to specialize in such areas as geriatric pharmacy.Do you talk with your pharmacist?Pharmacists are more likely than your doctor to have the detailedanswers you want about your medications. You may be surprised at theservices your pharmacist can provide. In most states, only your doctor ormedical professional, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner can actually prescribe a medication. But your pharmacist can suggest helpfulprescription changes to your doctor or medical professional.The more you can work in a trio—you, your doctor and your pharmacist—the more you will benefit from your medications.Pharmacists are more likely than your doctor to have thedetailed answers you want about your medications. You ma