June is National Safety Month: Caring for loved ones:

Injuries are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages – and they are the leading cause of death for Americans, ages one to 44. But there are many things people can do to stay safe and prevent injuries.

We can all use this month to raise awareness about important safety issues like:

  • Prescription painkiller abuse
  • Transportation safety
  • Ergonomics
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Slips, trips, and falls

One important issue is managing prescriptions so it does not become prescription painkiller abuse.

When patients, caregivers, doctors and pharmacists function as a team, medication–related problems can be avoided, contributing to better outcomes and improved daily functioning. Here are some tips for managing medication use:

  • Understand the Medication
    Find out as much as possible about every medication: the name, dosage,      frequency and side effects. Understand why it has been prescribed, and ask the doctor to write down instructions for its use.
  • Have Complete Medical Records
    Make sure to provide complete medical records to your loved one’s health care providers. Medical history records should contain surgeries, immunizations, allergies and family health history (i.e. diabetes, colon cancer, etc.). If needed, records can be sent by a previous provider.
  • Follow the Directions
    Following the directions on the medication is imperative to ensure safety.      Read all instructions carefully. Dispense only the recommended dosage at one time, and finish the entire prescription if instructed. There may be foods or drinks to avoid while taking the medicine. Or the medicine may have to be taken with food or a whole glass of water.
  • The average older adult takes five or more prescription drugs each day. In addition, many elderly people take various over–the–counter medications, such as antacids, laxatives or painkillers, which are often used without informing their physician. The drugs may conflict and interact poorly with each other – basically going to war against each other in the body, leading to serious side effects and even life–threatening conditions.
  • Use Only One Pharmacist
    Fill all prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This way, the pharmacist will be aware of all medications, and can look out for potential drug interactions.
  • Make a List of All Medications
    Make sure that every physician involved with your loved one’s care knows      about all prescribed and over–the–counter medications. Ask the physician to check for possible drug interactions. Keep a detailed list including the drug name, size of dosage (usually in milligrams) recommended dosage (daily, for example) and any cautions stated on the package. Carry a copy of this list with you in your wallet or purse at all times. This record will be invaluable in the event of a serious drug interaction or overdose. Share the lists with your doctors. Also, use the same pharmacy to fill all prescriptions, so the pharmacist can keep an eye out for dangerous interactions.
  • Watch for Social or Physical Changes
    It is also important to notify the health care provider of any social changes, including sleeping patterns, work schedules and special diets. This will assist the health care provider in determining if it is necessary to adjust the medication. After the drug has been administered, see how your loved one reacts to it. If symptoms seem unusual or rare, contact an emergency number immediately.
  • Don’t Self–treat
    Sometimes medicines affect older people differently than younger people. Let the doctor know if the medicine doesn’t seem to be working or if it is causing problems. It is best that your loved one not stop taking the medicine on his or her own. Under no circumstances should your loved one change dosages or stop taking the medication without first consulting the physician. In addition, never share or give medications to another person.
  • Keep Drugs Separate
    Keep medications in their original containers. Do not mix different      medications together in one container. This will avoid mix-ups.
  • Watch Expiration Dates
    When a medication reaches its expiration date, discard whatever is left…      Contact your physician for a refill if necessary.