Talk to your health-care professionals
It is important to go to all of your medical appointments and to talk to your team of health-care professionals (doctors, pharmacists, nurses or physician assistants) about your medical conditions, the medicines you take and any health concerns you have.
It may help to make a list of comments, questions or concerns before your visit or call to a health-care professional. Also, think about having a close friend or relative come to your appointment with you if you are unsure about talking to your health-care professional or would like someone to help you understand or remember answers to your questions.
Here are some other things to keep in mind:
All medicines count: Tell your team of health-care professionals about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relievers, antacids, cold medicines and laxatives. Don’t forget to include eye drops, dietary supplements, vitamins, herbals and topical medicines, such as creams and ointments.
Keep in touch with your doctors: If you regularly take a prescription medicine, ask your doctor to check how well it is working, whether you still need to take it and, if so, whether there is anything you can do (like lowering fats in your diet or exercising more) to cut back or, in time, stop needing the medicine. Don’t stop taking the medicine on your own without first talking with your doctor.
Medical history: Tell your health-care professional about your medical history. The doctor will want to know if you have any food, medicine or other allergies. He or she also will want to know about other conditions you have or had and how you are being treated or were treated for them by other doctors. It is helpful to keep a written list of your health conditions that you can easily share with your doctors. Your primary care doctor should also know about any specialist doctors you may see on a regular basis.
Eating habits: Mention your eating habits. If you follow or have recently changed to a special diet (a very low-fat diet, for instance, or a high-calcium diet), talk to your doctor about this. Tell your doctor how much coffee, tea or alcohol you drink each day and whether you smoke. These things may make a difference in the way your medicine works. Tell your health professionals about your medical history and about all medicines or supplements you take.
Recognizing and remembering to take your medicines: Let your health-care professional know if you have trouble telling your medicines apart. The doctor can help you find better ways to recognize your medicines. Also tell your doctor if you have problems remembering when to take your medicines or how much to take. Your doctor may have some ideas to help, such as a calendar or pill box.
Swallowing tablets: If you have trouble swallowing tablets, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for ideas. Maybe there is a liquid medicine you could use or maybe you can crush your tablets. Do not break, crush or chew tablets without first asking your health professional.
Your lifestyle: If you want to make your medicine schedule more simple, talk about it with your doctor. He or she may have another medicine or ideas that better fit your lifestyle. For example, if taking medicine four times a day is a problem for you, maybe the doctor can give you a medicine you only need to take once or twice a day.
Put It in writing: Ask your health-care professional to write out a complete medicine schedule, with directions on exactly when and how to take your medicines. Find out from your primary care doctor how your medicine schedule should be changed if you see more than one doctor.
Your pharmacist is part of your medication team, too. One of the most important services a pharmacist can offer is to talk to you about your medicines. A pharmacist can help you understand how and when to take your medicines, what side effects you might expect or what interactions may occur. A pharmacist can answer your questions privately in the pharmacy or over the telephone.
Here are some other ways your pharmacist can help:
Many pharmacists keep track of medicines on their computer. If you buy your medicines at one store and tell your pharmacist all the over-the-counter and prescription medicines or dietary supplements you take, your pharmacist can help make sure your medicines don’t interact harmfully with one another.
Ask your pharmacist to place your prescription medicines in easy-to-open containers if you have a hard time taking off child-proof caps and do not have young children living in or visiting your home. (Remember to keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children.)
Your pharmacist may be able to print labels on prescription medicine containers in larger type, if reading the medicine label is hard for you.
Your pharmacist may be able to give you written information to help you learn more about your medicines. This information may be available in large type or in a language other than English. Your pharmacist can help keep track of your medicines.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 3 of “Aging Healthy: You and Your Medicines.”