From the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging
• Always ask your health care provider why each medication is prescribed and what it is intended to do.
• Always make sure you understand when and how to take each medication (with food or on an empty stomach, before bedtime, not with dairy products, etc.).
• Always take your medications exactly as directed by your health care provider; ask what to do if you miss a dose.
• Always take a list of all of your medications and their dosages and review all medications with your health care provider at each visit.
• Always use the same pharmacy for all of your prescription medications. Most pharmacies today have computer systems that will alert the pharmacist to any possible drug interactions.
• Always read labels on medications carefully - your pharmacist can make labels with large print if you have trouble reading.
If you drink alcohol,
• Always ask your health care provider about the safety of drinking alcohol while taking medication(s).
• Always Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any problems or side effects with your medication.
• Never take any medication that has expired (check labels carefully).
• Never put different medications in the same container (they can interact with each other even before you take them).
• Never stop taking a medication or alter the way (time/dosage) you take a medication without talking to your health care provider.
• Never share your medication with someone or take medication given to you by someone other than your health care provider.
• Never stop taking a medication without talking to your health care provider first. If you are having problems with a certain medication, there may be another choice. Also, some medications must be stopped gradually to avoid problems.
The recommendations by the American Geriatrics Society about how to prevent polypharmacy are all valuable and important points, however, it may be best to start by keeping in mind the most basic principle of all:
Don’t take any medication that there is no reason to take. In other words, make sure every medication you take is for a valid reason or diagnosis. This means you have to know what your medications are, what their names are, and what conditions they treat. Also, make sure everything you are taking is of benefit. Some medications are obviously effective. For example, your pain medication will result in pain relief after you take it. Other medications are not so obviously effective, like your cholesterol medication. Unless you can test your blood level of cholesterol you will not know if it’s working. For medications that you are not certain of their effectiveness, we recommend that you actively seek information from your doctor or pharmacist about how to measure effectiveness.