Chattanooga Times Free Press

Take an in­ven­tory of mul­ti­ple meds


DEAR DOC­TORS: My par­ents are in their 80s. We’ve no­ticed how many meds they are tak­ing. They’re from dif­fer­ent doc­tors, and some may be du­pli­cates. How do we get things or­ga­nized?


You’re not alone in be­ing sur­prised to dis­cover how many med­i­ca­tions an older par­ent is tak­ing. As peo­ple age, they of­ten be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence a va­ri­ety of ills and health con­di­tions that lead them to seek out spe­cial­ists. This can re­sult in mul­ti­ple di­ag­noses, each ac­com­pa­nied by pre­scrip­tions for med­i­ca­tions to help man­age the prob­lems. If a pa­tient isn’t well-versed in the med­i­ca­tions they are tak­ing and there is lim­ited or no com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween their physi­cians, it is in­deed pos­si­ble for them to wind up with pre­scrip­tions that over­lap, or that lead to ad­verse in­ter­ac­tions. Tak­ing more pills than one ac­tu­ally needs is known as polyphar­macy, which has be­come in­creas­ingly com­mon as a large por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion reaches older age.

The good news is that, with just a bit of de­tec­tive work and a few or­ga­ni­za­tional tools, you can tame the med­i­ca­tion tan­gle. Start by gath­er­ing all the med­i­ca­tions that each par­ent takes. Note the name of the drug and its pur­pose, the dosage, the pre­scrib­ing doc­tor and con­tact info, and the di­rec­tions for tak­ing it. Be sure to in­clude over­the-counter meds, vi­ta­mins and sup­ple­ments, as these can con­trib­ute to ad­verse in­ter­ac­tions. If pos­si­ble, make an ap­point­ment with each par­ent’s pri­mary care physi­cian for them to eval­u­ate the meds list and, if needed, rec­om­mend changes. We know that im­me­di­ate of­fice vis­its can be dif­fi­cult to sched­ule, so if you have press­ing con­cerns, your lo­cal phar­ma­cist can iden­tify prob­lem­atic com­bi­na­tions. How­ever, don’t make any changes with­out first check­ing with a health care provider.

Once the nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate meds have been iden­ti­fied, cre­ate and print out a mas­ter list for each par­ent. Have them take their own list to each med­i­cal ap­point­ment and share it with that health care provider. This cre­ates a sce­nario where the meds list gets reeval­u­ated on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, which greatly re­duces the risk of du­pli­cate pre­scrip­tions or an ad­verse drug in­ter­ac­tion. When changes are made, be sure to up­date the mas­ter list.

Mean­while, in­vest in weekly pill or­ga­niz­ers. They come in a va­ri­ety of sizes and for­mats, so you should be able to find one that works best for each par­ent’s needs. Once you’re filling the boxes, it’s just as easy to set up two or three weeks’ worth of meds as it is to do a sin­gle week. Keep all of the med­i­ca­tions in one safe lo­ca­tion, away from heat, mois­ture or di­rect sun­light, and — this is cru­cial — se­cure from chil­dren. It’s also im­por­tant to keep an eye on ex­pi­ra­tion dates, which are printed on the la­bels. Yes, there’s de­bate over when meds ac­tu­ally ex­pire, but we rec­om­mend hon­or­ing those dates. Also, re­view how to dis­pense of ex­pired meds. Lo­cal phar­ma­cies and po­lice sta­tions of­ten have drop-off boxes for that spe­cific pur­pose.

 ??  ?? Dr. El­iz­a­beth Ko
Eve Glazier
Dr. El­iz­a­beth Ko Dr. Eve Glazier

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