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Living Better As You Age

Time takes its toll on the human body. And as we age, we have to rely more and more on medication and other forms of health care to keep ourselves strong and healthy. I know firsthand how complicated and even discouraging the senior years can be. I’m a consultant pharmacist, and I work with the elderly every day in nursing facilities, other long-term care facilities, senior centers, hospices and even right in their homes.

The most common complaint I hear from my elderly patients is about the amount of medicine they must take each day. While it’s true that modern science has given us medicines that help people feel better and lead more productive lives, it is also true that incorrect use of these powerful medications can make you ill. Because seniors often take several medications— for heart disease, high blood pressure, and fluid retention, to name a few—it is crucial that they pay special attention to how they’re taken.

Consultant pharmacists serve as personal health care advisors to millions of senior citizens across the country. Your consultant pharmacist is a medication expert who can instruct you on taking your medicines safely, and who can monitor your medication for problems and interactions. My job is preventing medication problems and helping achieve optimal medication results, but patients also have an important role to play. Some simple guidelines:

  • Talk about your medications with all your health care providers. Nurses, physicians, physical therapists, and pharmacists work together to make your treatment work well for you. Especially if you are being treated by different doctors for different ailments, it’s important to be clear and forthright in explaining what medicines you take and how you take them.
  • Write down any problems you notice that may possibly be related to your medications. Visit your physician or consultant pharmacist and bring the list with you, along with all of the medications you take. This approach can often lead to faster detection of potentially serious medication-related problems.
  • Follow medication use instructions to the letter. Don’t double up if you forget a dose, and don’t stop taking the medication if you seem to feel better or are simply tired of taking pills. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are frustrated; they may be able to design a better medication system for you.
  • Write down what your doctor and pharmacist tell you about your medications. It’s common to forget what doctors say before you even get home from their office, so try to write down their instructions. When you take a lot of medicines, written instructions can help you remember how to take them properly.
  • Involve your family as much as possible. Talk to your children, your spouse, and other family members about your medicines. In particular, adult children can help you keep track of what you are taking and why. This way, if your children must suddenly become your caregivers, they will already be acquainted with your doctor, pharmacist, and medications.

The consultant pharmacist is an educator, a comforter, a knowledgeable health care professional, and a family friend. We save money, we save lives, and most importantly, we make life better for a lot of people. And in today’s world, that makes sense for all of us.

America’s Senior Care Pharmacists™

Some eye-opening facts and figures:

More than 44,000 deaths result each year from medication-related errors, 7,000 of which are due to mistakes in prescribing or dispensing the wrong drugs.

Nearly one in five elderly Americans living in the community is taking at least one drug generally deemed unsuitable for their age group because safer alternative medications are available.

Consultant pharmacists’ services are so important in safeguarding the health and safety of nursing home residents that regular pharmacist reviews of each resident’s drug therapy are mandated by law in federally funded facilities.

In nursing homes alone, patient counseling, medication monitoring, and other services provided by consultant pharmacists save close to $3.6 billion each year in prevented hospitalizations and reduced medication costs.