Q: I am trying to help my parents manage their prescription drugs. They each take several as well as over-the-counter items and vitamins. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Managing multiple medicines is never an easy job and when you are helping with medications for several people the job becomes many times more difficult.

Three out of four older adults have multiple chronic health problems and one out of every five take medications that may make another health problem worse — so it is necessary to understand how each drug may affect the other drugs being taken.

There are several partners involved in receiving and understanding medications. First there is the doctor — he determines that a particular medication is appropriate for the problem and writes the prescription for the patient to obtain that item.

The patient then takes that prescription to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist reads the prescription selects the medication and amount prescribed and packages and labels it and delivers it to the patient.

The patient then takes it home and begins using the item prescribed. Between the time the doctor prescribes the drug and the patient starts to use the drug there are many questions that should have been asked and answered about the understanding of the use of that particular drug.

The questions that should have been asked are: What is this drug for? What is the active ingredient in this drug? Should I take the entire amount or can I stop when I feel better? Can I refill this prescription? How should I store this drug? and What are the side effects and if they occur what should I do?

You also have to know what, if any, food or beverages can change the way each medication works in the body — so are there foods and beverages that should not be taken while using this particular medication.

The “team” can help spot these types of problems — but the patient or the patient’s caregiver can do a lot to make sure the medication does what it is expected to do.

The most important step is communication. You can start by writing down all the prescriptions currently being taken and any over-the-counter items, supplements and vitamins. Take this list or if possible the bottles themselves to either the doctor’s office or pharmacy for a review. Let your team members help you understand what is being taken and why and what may or may not be a potential problem.

Then when you get a new prescription ask to have it checked against the list of the items already being taken. Ask specifically if the new prescription means you should stop taking one you are already taking, should you avoid certain over the counter items and are there certain foods or beverages you should avoid.

If possible always fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This makes it easier for the pharmacist to spot a potential problem.

Managing multiple medications poses a challenge and studies have shown that the more prescriptions you have the less likely the patient will take them all correctly.

To help stay organized ask that the labels on the drug bottles have large easy to read print. Store each drug in the original package and save any written information that comes with that prescription.

The next step is to set up a system for taking each one at the correct time. Consider using a daily pill box to ensure all pills are taken. You could also use a check off list that the patient can use as the different medications are taken during the day.

The job is not an easy one but with knowledge about each medication and a little planning it can be done.


Tuesday: 5:30-7 p.m. — Presentation — “Uber Assist — Uber WAV” (wheelchair accessible vans) expanding transportation options in the area — at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations call (805) 497-0189.

Jan. 20: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — 2nd Annual Wellness Fest — at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. A day to meet Senior Service Providers — check out all your wellness needs under one roof.

Jan. 26: 5:30-7 p.m. — Seminar — The Empowered Caregiver Series — “Improving Your Caregiving Experience” at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations call 497-0189.

Jan. 30: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Caregiver Recognition Day — “Caregivers Matter … Conejo Cares.” If you are a family Caregiver for an aging loved one — or you know someone who is you are invited to join Senior Concerns at the 2nd Annual Caregiver Recognition Day at Los Robles Greens, 299 Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 497-0189.

Jan. 31: Presentation — 2 p.m. — History Comes Alive — ” Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $5 and available at Goebel Center.

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