Family Living Focus: Taking medicines safely – Older adults and medications

Older people as a group

tend to have more long-term,

chronic illnesses such as

arthritis, diabetes, high

blood pressure and heart disease

than any other age

group. Because they may

have a number of health

problems or issues at the

same time, it is common for

older people to take many

different drugs. Here are

some tips on how to take

medicines safely and get the

best results from them.

Understanding Your


If your doctor prescribes

a medication for your condition,

try to find out as much

about it as you can, including

how to take it properly.

Ask the following questions

and write down the answers

before leaving the doctor’s


• What is the name of the

condition this medicine will


• What is the name of the


• How does it treat my


• What is the name of its

active ingredient?

• Did you check that it

doesn’t contain anything I’m

allergic to?

• How long will it take to

work? How should I store

the medication? Does it

need to be refrigerated?

• Can the pharmacist substitute

a less expensive,

generic form of the medicine?

Find Out How to Take

the Medication

Ask your doctor, pharmacist,

or nurse about the right

way to take any medicine

before you start to use it.

Ask questions when you

don’t know the meaning of a

word, or when instructions

aren’t clear. Here are some

specific questions to ask.

• Should I take it as

needed or on a schedule?

• Should I take it at a certain

time of day?

• How much should I

take each time?

• Do I need to take it

with food?

• May I drink alcohol

while on this medication?

• How long will I have to

take it?

Ask What to Expect

• How will I feel once I

start taking this medicine?

• How will I know if this

medicine is working?

• If I forget to take it,

what should I do?

• What side effects might

I expect? Should I report


• Can this medicine interact

with other prescription

and over-the-counter medicines

including herbal and

dietary supplements that I

am taking now?

Tips for Taking

Medicines Properly

Taking different medicines

is not always easy to

do properly. It may be hard

to remember what each

medicine is for, and how and

when you should take each

one. Here are some helpful

hints about taking medicines.

• Check the label on

your medicine before taking

it to make sure that it is for

the correct person — you.

• Read and save any

written information that

comes with the medicine.

• Take the medicine according

to the schedule on

the label.

• Don’t take more or

less than the prescribed

amount of any medicine.

• If swallowing tablets is

difficult, ask your doctor or

pharmacist whether there is

a liquid form of the medicine

or whether you could crush

your tablets. However, do

NOT break, crush, or chew

tablets without asking a

health professional first.

• Get into the habit of

checking the expiration

dates on your medicine bottles

and throw away medicine

that has expired.

• Try to set and follow a

routine for taking your medicines.


Information adapted

from article by National Institute

of Senior Health

Aging Page.


If you would like more information

on “Taking Medications

Safely – Older

Adults and Medications”

contact Gail Gilman, Family

Life Consultant, M.Ed.,

C.F.C.S. and Professor

Emeritus – University of

Minnesota at

waldn001@umn.edu. Be

sure to watch for more Family

Living Focus™ information

in next week’s paper.


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