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Managing Your Medications 24/7

Dee Antimisiaris Did you know that the length of a typical doctor’s office visit is shrinking? Doctors are now only spending about seven minutes on average with each patient. At the same time, the number of prescription and non-prescription medications people take is growing. That’s why it is important for you to take an active role in helping your health care providers detect medication-related problems.

Today, we are living longer with chronic diseases, relying on medications to help us stay well. Some patients—particularly the elderly—may take up to 20 medications at the same time to help manage conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or lung disease. This poses a challenge for both the doctor and patient: If the doctor’s clinic visit is only seven minutes long, how can he or she properly assess the 20 medications a person may be taking?

Carefully managing medicines can help you stay out of the hospital, and you can help. First, keep an up-to-date record of all your medications, both prescription and non-prescription. “My Medicine List,” which is located right here on www.SafeMedication.com, is a great tool to help you do that.

If you were recently hospitalized or have seen a doctor, make sure to update any medication changes. “My Medicine List” provides a space to fill out what the medicine is used for and which doctor prescribed it. Be sure to include any non-prescription medication or supplements you take regularly.

Also, jot down any symptoms you have experienced, when the symptoms occurred (date, time of day, after using which medications?), and a description of the symptom. Symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, light headedness, falls, diarrhea, confusion, sleepiness, changes in urinary frequency, constipation, and dizziness may be related to a medication you are taking.

Finally, it helps to use a calendar to keep a log of your medication use and how you felt after taking your medicine. The calendar is also a great tool to use to record blood pressure and blood sugar readings and weight changes. Share this information with each doctor who is caring for you, and make sure that he or she puts it into your chart! The more you can help your health care providers know what is going on in your day-to-day medication use, the better they can judge what is working, what is not working, and what might be harming you.

Demetra Antimisiaris, Pharm.D., CGP, FASCP, Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine, University of Louisville