About 2/5 of Australians, aged over 50 and 2/3 of Australians aged over 75 years old, take five or more medications every day. Older Australians taking five or more medications are twice as likely to report a side effect or other medication problem. This is true if they are prescription, over the counter, or complementary or herbal medications. Approximately 1/3 of all hospital admissions in those over 65 are related to medication, and half of these could be prevented.
As we age, our bodies change, for example, by how much water, fat and muscle we have, we may become more sensitive medication, or, our bodies may not process them as efficiently. We may also develop issues with vision or memory that can make managing medicines much harder.
To make managing your medicines easier, and safer, I would like to share with you a five point medication health check!
1 – Check in with your doctor
Make sure you see your doctor every 6 months, or as directed, to review your medication. Your doctor is likely to have considered your age and other medications you are taking, but it does no harm to be sure, ask questions. Ask your doctor if you still need all the medications that have been prescribed or if there are any problems or side effects your are experiencing.
2 – Make a medications list
Write down all the medication you use, including prescription, and non prescription, over the counter, minerals, herbal and natural medicines. Record what each medication is for, when and how you take it, including the dose. Be aware of what they look like, and any other names they may have (generic vs. trade name). You can print out a list template, or download a medicines list app for your smartphone (such as NPS Medicine Wise) . This may be invaluable to have on your person in an emergency.
3 – Request a Home Medications Review
The Home Medications Review program (HMR) may help you manage your medicines. You may benefit from one if
-you take five or more tablets a day
-you take 12 or more doses of medication a day
-you have difficulty managing your own medication, for example, due to low vision
-you have recently been discharged from hospital
-you are confused or concerned about your medication
This will be coordinated by your GP. An accredited pharmacist will visit your home to review your medication with you and explore any concerns or issues you may have. Your GP will then discuss these findings with you, and, together you will develop a medication management plan.
4 – Consider using equipment to help
There are many things on the market designed to make it easier to take medication. Some are designed for specific tasks, such as cutting or crushing tablets, others can help overcome weak or arthritic hands, helping to open medication bottles.
You can purchase dosing boxes that you, or a carer, can fill with your tablets, to help you not miss a dose. Or, for a fee, your pharmacist can make up a blister pack (Webster Pack) to help you keep track of when you should be taking your medication.
5 – Dispose of unwanted medication properly
Having out of date, or medication you no longer need or take, can be very confusing, and can contribute to medication errors. They must be returned to your pharmacist, who will dispose of them using the Return Unwanted Medicines Scheme. This makes sure they are disposed of safely, without harming the environment, people, or pets, and helps to make your home safer.
Following these pointers, will go some way to reducing the chances of running into problems relating to medication use. For more information on your medication, advice on how to use them well, and other practical tools, visit the NPS Medicine Wise website.