Seniors - Tips for Safe Medicine Use
If you are age 65 or older, you may take more medicines now than ever before.
Two-thirds of adults age 65 and older use one or more medicines each day, and a
quarter of them take three drugs each day. The more you know about your
medicines and the more you communicate with your health professionals, the
better your chances are for avoiding possible problems with medicines. Here are
some tips for safe medicine use:
- Learn about your medicines. Read medicine labels and package inserts. If
you have difficulty reading the label, ask a friend, relative or pharmacist
for help. If you have questions about the label directions or warnings, ask
your doctor or other health care professional.
- Talk to your health professionals about your medical conditions, medicines
you take and health concerns. The more they know, the more they can help you.
- Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription
and nonprescription medicines, as well as dietary supplements, vitamins and
herbals. Also tell your doctor about any allergies you have (foods, other
- Keep track of side effects and let your doctor know immediately about any
unexpected symptoms or changes in the way you feel.
- Keep a record of the medicines you are taking. If you are taking several
different medicines, keeping a record of medication as you take it can help
you use medicines properly and safely.
- Use memory aids, such as a calendar or pill box, to help you remember what
to take and when.
- Ask your pharmacist about patient records. Many pharmacies now keep these
records for you so that you'll be able to keep track of all medicines you are
currently taking, as well as allergies and current medical conditions.
- Make sure to go to all appointments for monitoring tests done by your
doctor or at a laboratory.
- Go through your medicine cabinet at least once a year to get rid of old or
expired medicines. If small children or pets are in your home, it is best to
throw away old medicines and dietary supplements in the toilet or sink rather
than the trash can.
- Have all your medicines reviewed by your doctor at least once a year. Don't
forget to include any over-the-counter medicines you take, as well as
vitamins, dietary supplements and herbals. Write them down so you won't forget
to mention any.
- Keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
- Questions? Ask a health professional. If you do not understand information
on the medicine label, ask your doctor, pharmacist or other health care
For additional information about OTC and prescription drugs, please visit the
The above information was provided, in part, with the kind permission of the Council on
Family Health (www.cfhinfo.org
)Last Editorial Review: 12/23/2002