One in the morning, two at night, the blue one with meals, and the square tablet on an empty stomach. Taking medications shouldn’t be confusing, considering we need them to improve our health. But we sometimes believe they seem to cause more grief than good. So how do we stay on top of this compounding pile of pills?
Statistics show that each year approximately 422 million prescriptions are filled in Canada to treat people’s health problems. Why is it then that so many people end up in the hospital because of taking medications incorrectly? According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, medication errors are said to affect about 1.5 million Canadians per year. A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal estimates that more than one in nine of all emergency room visits are medication-related – a skipped dose, improper administration or taking the wrong medication altogether. These situations are considered medication errors – preventable incidents that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm.
As we age we develop health problems that may require us to take medications – sometimes more than we wish to. Who knew the trials and tribulations of taking our medicine would be so challenging. It’s only a few little pills. It’s bad enough some days remembering to take our medication, let alone take it with rules.
We often don’t realize there are so many hard and fast rules to taking a bunch of pills. Medication management is a process that can help when it comes to proper use of medications. It focuses on monitoring the medications a patient takes to ensure they are complying with their medication regimen, while also ensuring they are avoiding potentially dangerous drug interactions and other complications. Who should ultimately be responsible for a person’s medication administration?
I believe the success of medication use should be a collaborative partnership that includes the pharmacist, the patient or family caregiver, and the interdisciplinary health care team (e.g., doctors, nurses, etc.). But it’s the medication user that needs to be at the centre of the ring when the time comes to build medication therapy into everyday routine. So here’s some things to keep in mind when managing your medications:
• Know why you are taking the medications, what they are treating, their side effects and interactions with one another and, most importantly, how you will know they are working.
• Take ownership of your health and monitor your health status regularly (e.g., if you are taking medication to decrease your blood pressure, monitor your blood pressure and keep track of the results.
• Listen to your body; be aware of changes, warnings and side effects. Know when to report them to your physician.
• Take medications as prescribed by your doctor and advised by your pharmacist. For instance, there are valid reasons why you may need to take a certain medication on an empty stomach.
• Communicate regularly with your pharmacist if you have questions about your medications. Your pharmacist should be able to give you the answers.
• Keep a current list of the medications you take; it can provide valuable information to your interdisciplinary health team.
• Read the medication information documentation that’s provided to you by your pharmacy before starting any new medication, and if you have questions ask your pharmacist.
• Always remember to refill your prescriptions before they run out.
• Speak to your pharmacist about having a MedsCheck. It’s free and can be conducted yearly if you have more than three prescribed medications or if you are diabetic (http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/drugs/medscheck/).
Organizing your life around your medications or managing your medications around your life, no matter how you look at it, is necessary not only for maintaining or improving your health but also to prevent you from getting sick or being hospitalized from improper medication use. And if you can’t manage it on your own you need to speak to your pharmacist about how you can successfully manage your medication therapy.