October is quite an important month for seniors. Not only does this month mark the beginning of open enrollment, but it also serves as an annual observance to call attention to the need to improve communication about medications. In today’s post, we are celebrating Talk About Your Medicines Month!
The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) created Talk About Your Medicines Month in 1986 to bring attention to the value that better medicine communication can play in promoting better medicine use AND better health outcomes. Here at Seniors Speak Out, we agree! Here are several tips for how you can improve communication with your doctor and pharmacists about your medications.
At the Doctor’s Office:
Before your doctor writes you a new prescription, be sure to discuss your current medical conditions and what medications you are currently prescribed. In order to ensure there are no adverse reactions with your current medications, your doctor will need to know this critical information. Additionally, be sure to alert your doctor if you have any allergies.
As your doctor writes you a prescription, get your pen and paper ready! You might need to take notes as he answers some of your questions, which might include:
- What time of day should I take this medication?
- Is there a generic version of this medication? (This might help keep the out-of-pocket costs down, as generic medication is often cheaper than brand name medications)
- Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid while taking this medication?
- When will the medication begin working?
- Are there any side effects I should be aware of?
At the Pharmacist:
Did you know a survey of 5,200 licensed pharmacists in the U.S. found that less than half their working time was spent filling prescriptions? Six out of 10 pharmacists provide medication therapy management to help patients like us understand our medicines.
- Does this medication require refills? If so, how often do I need to do so?
- How should I store this medication?
- What happens if I miss a dose?
Of course, feel free to ask your doctor or pharmacist any additional questions you might have. By communicating with these providers frequently, you can ensure every medication fits your individual needs. Also, remember that these medicines were prescribed just for you, and it is dangerous to share prescription medicines with others.
It is also important after finishing a medication to ensure it is disposed of properly. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends utilizing medicine take-back programs to ensure others don’t accidentally take or misuse the unneeded medicine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal. Seniors and caregivers can also contact their local waste management authorities to learn about other disposal options.