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Important Medication Tips For Senior Citizens

El Centro, California (NAPSI) - Should you be taking the medications you’re taking? If you’re 65 or older, that’s an important question to ask yourself  and your healthcare provider.

Why? Because some commonly prescribed  medications can actually be harmful for older adults.

As you get older, your body changes. These changes can increase the  chances that you might have side effects from certain drugs. For example,  your liver or kidneys may not function quite as well as when you were  younger, so your body can’t process medications in the same way. This  can lead to a build-up of the drug in your system, which can increase the  risk of side effects such as falls, a drop in blood pressure or heart rate,  drowsiness, or confusion.

Many older adults have two or more health problems that require multiple  medications and treatments. Because of this, older adults are more likely to  experience potentially harmful interactions between their prescriptions. In  fact, every year, one in three adults 65 and older has one or more harmful  reactions to medications they are taking.

“Older adults and their caregivers need to take an active role in  managing their medications,” says Cathy Alessi, MD, a physician who  specializes in the care of older adults and is the president of the American  Geriatrics Society (AGS). “They need to ask questions of their doctor,  nurse, physician assistant, or pharmacist, and read the information that  comes with their medications. All medications have side effects, even those  sold over-the-counter. That’s why patients should discuss the risks and  benefits of any medication with their healthcare provider before deciding  which ones are right for them.”

What should you do to lower your odds of having harmful medication side  effects or drug interactions? Here are five tips from the American Geriatrics  Society:

1. Bring a list of all the medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, and  over-the-counter drugs you’re taking to every medical appointment. The  list should include the dosages you take and how often you take them. Be sure  your emergency contact person or caregiver has an up-to-date copy of the  list.

2. If you notice a new health problem or symptom after starting a new medication,  you may be having a harmful drug reaction. Tell your healthcare provider  right away. If you have a serious reaction, such as difficulty breathing or  swelling in your throat, call 911 and go to the emergency room immediately.

3. Fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy and get to know your local  pharmacist. Your pharmacist’s job is to be aware of all the medications  you’re taking. Most pharmacies use computer systems that alert the  pharmacist to possible drug interactions.

4. Once or twice a year, ask your primary healthcare provider to review  your list of medications, supplements, and vitamins. Ask whether you still  need to take each one, and at its current dose. There may be times when your  provider will decide to stop some of your medications or adjust the doses.  Just remember, though, that you should never change the dose or stop taking  any medication without first consulting your provider.

5. Whenever a healthcare professional prescribes a new medication, changes  a dosage, or stops prescribing a drug you’ve been prescribed, ask for  an explanation. It’s important that you understand these changes in  your care.

To help healthcare providers care for older adults who take multiple  medications, the AGS has published a list of medications that may cause  harmful side effects in older people when taken alone or in combination. In  the healthcare industry this list is known as the “Beers List,”   or “Beers Criteria,” and is named after the late Dr. Mark Beers,  a geriatric medicine specialist who originated the list in 1991.

For more information about how to safely manage your medications, visit, the website  of the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging.   __________________________________________________________

Questions to Ask Your Healthcare  Provider About Your Medications

• Why are you prescribing this particular medication?

• Are there other medications that might be safer or more effective?

• What are the potential side effects? Which ones are serious enough  to call you or 911?

• How will I know if the medication is working?

• Does this medication interact with any other drugs I’m  taking?

• Are there any dietary restrictions I should follow?