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Merrimack Valley

March 4, 2013

Steps can be taken to avoid adverse reactions to medications

Q: My elderly mother had been in the best of health until a few months ago when she was in a serious automobile accident and subsequently had a heart attack while hospitalized. She is now supposed to be taking several medications and seems a little overwhelmed by all of this. I have never had to take any pills on a daily basis so I don’t know how to help her and she is embarrassed to keep calling her physician. Do you have any hints to make this easier for her to understand and manage?

A: Studies indicate about 33 percent of people age 65 and older have one or more negative reactions to a prescribed medication. This is rather understandable considering they have more chronic illnesses and take more prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines than any other age group. Your concern is brought to our attention on a regular basis so obviously a lot of people are having the same problem as you stated. The National Council on Aging has a list of suggestions that should be helpful to not only your mother but anyone regardless of age who takes medications on a regular basis.

1. Keep informed about all the medications you are taking-Carefully make a list of all prescribed medications, over-the-counter products, vitamins, herbals and supplements (update this on a regular basis). Provide this list to all medical personnel involved in your care. It will be important to know if a new medicine could negatively interact with a previously prescribed medication or over-the-counter medication. Additionally pay attention to and properly dispose of any pills past the listed expiration date.

2. Use one pharmacy: Whenever possible have prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy or drug mail order supplier. When a prescription is filled closely inspect the contents to verify the pills are the ones prescribed. If the pills look different from ones previously taken do not use them until you have received an acceptable explanation. Your local pharmacist is often a source of useful information, develop a relationship where you feel comfortable discussing any concerns with them on a regular basis.

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