10 Tips for Tracking Multiple Medications
If you are juggling multiple medications and/or supplements for yourself or a loved one, you are not alone. This is especially true as we age, because people over age 65:
- Often take several prescription medications each day.
- Often take several over-the-counter drugs each day.
- Often take several supplements each day.
- Are typically managing one or more chronic conditions.
- Often see multiple healthcare professionals to assist them with their health needs.
- Often use more than one pharmacy.
As we age and start taking multiple drugs, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Improper usage can result, increasing potentially harmful or even fatal health risks.
According to the National Council on Patient Information and Education, 50% of Americans do not take their medications correctly. With the number of medications people over age 65 are taking, it’s no surprise they aren’t being taken properly. Multiple medications can lead to confusion, over-treatment, drug interactions and unnecessary side effects, and it can be difficult to remember to take them all at the right time for each medication and with the proper dosage instructions.
To help you stay organized, we’ve created the following tips for tracking multiple medications:
1) The best tip for tracking multiple medications we can give you is to make a list of your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements. Include the name, dosage and frequency of each, along with whether it should be taken with or without food, where it should be stored, potential side effects and the notes about what you have experienced after taking the drug. You can use the following Medication Tracking Sheet to do this.
Keep this medication chart with you at all times, whether in your phone, wallet or by another means. Make sure your relatives and close friends have a copy as well. This way, you can always share it with your healthcare physicians when you go to doctors appointments, hospital visits or with your pharmacist.
2) Consider interactions, such as other medications, supplements, foods and alcohol. Mixing medications and supplements that provide similar results can lead to an overdose. Plus, certain foods, beverages and supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications. Always consult your physician or pharmacist before adding a new supplement to your routine, and don’t be afraid to show your list of medications and supplements to get the answers you need to feel safe.
3) Note any side effects you experience and bring them up to your doctor. On our Medication Tracking Sheet, we have included a section for you to write the potential side effects you may encounter, plus a notes section where you can record any side effects you experience.
4) One tip for tracking multiple medications that is often overlooked is to simply ask your doctor to simplify your medications and your medication schedule. Sometimes doctors are quick to prescribe medication when another option could be used just as effectively. Ask if there are alternative methods you could use. Also, be sure to show him or her your list of medications each time you visit and ask if all of the medications on your list are necessary and if any could be replaced with a supplement.
5) Tie your medication schedule in with your daily activities. Take medications that should be taken with food and in the morning with your breakfast. Take those that should be taken at night and with food with your dinner. For those that should not be taken with food, tie them in with a certain activity that will help you remember to take them.
6) Use an app or an alarm to remind you to take your medications. There are apps for phones, computers, iPads, etc that can send you alerts to take your medications at certain times. An easier way is to just set up alarms on your phone.
7) Use pill containers. Instead of having to open up 10 bottles of medication each time you need to take them, a pill container allows you to simply open up one compartment to dispense all of your pills. Depending on how many times per day you take your medication, you can get pill containers that have one, two or three compartments for each day. This is also a powerful and easy way to check if you already took your medication if you can’t remember.
8) Enlist the help of an organized friend or family member. If organization isn’t your thing, get a family member or friend who has good organizing skills to help you set up a system that will work for you. Medication tracking isn’t always cookie-cutter because what works for one person might not work for another, so setting up your own system can be a great way to get it under control.
9) Use one pharmacy. It can be easy to get in a trap of using multiple pharmacies especially if you took advantage of special coupons or deals at various pharmacies, but it can make your life more difficult. Having only one pharmacy makes it easier to track your refills, and it also helps you create a relationship with your pharmacist so that he or she can help you ensure you aren’t going to encounter drug interactions.
10) When you are prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist the following questions:
- What is this medication for?
- How does the drug work?
- How do I know if the drug is working or not working?
- What side effects should I consult you about?
- Is this medication safe to take with the other drugs and supplements I am taking?
- Should I be taking this medication everyday or can I take it only when symptoms arise?
- Is there another way I can treat my issue without going on this medication? Are there alternative methods that work?
- Are there foods or beverages that can negatively impact the effectiveness of this drug?
- Should this medication be taken with or without food?
- What is the best time of day to take this medication?
As we age, it becomes more and more necessary to learn tips for tracking multiple medications, and we hope the tips we provided will help make the process easier for you.
We could give you even more tips for tracking multiple medications, but in the end, the most important thing you can do if you are taking multiple medications is to meet with your doctor to ensure that each medication you are taking has a purpose that provides more benefits than risks. Also evaluate the over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and supplements you are taking along with your medications. Keeping a dialog between you and those you are entrusting your care with will help to avoid unnecessary drug interactions or overmedication.
Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net, Carlos Porto