Medications embody both good & evil represented in a tiny bottle. Use them properly & they are safe the overwhelming majority of the time. Slip up, forget or get lax in your approach and problems can bring you up short.
When managing multiple medications, it’s wise to use any and all tools available. Make sure you take your medications at the proper time and in the proper doses–read your label and call the pharmacy if you don’t understand.
To help with the time and dose issue, I use a medi-planner with four different slots in it–morning–noon–evening–bedtime. They also make them with many other options and they are inexpensive. If you have no funds at all, contact your local health department, pharmacy or home health office as free ones are sometimes available.
If remembering to take the medication is an issue, some medi-planners have a timer on them and they will beep or blink until you take the medication. Pretty ingenious ain’t it!! Using a medi-planner, with or without a timer, also keeps you from forgetting whether you took the medication or not. If the slot is empty, then you took it!
Another big safety consideration is using the proper lid for the medication bottles. If you have children in the home, make sure you have safety lids, and if you must have non-safety tops, keep your medication in a lock box. When taking controlled substances, keep them locked away and hidden. They are dangerous for children and they are also the basis for many violent crimes if others know they are there. When anyone comes into your home, make sure all medications are out of sight. You can never be too careful!!
Also, it’s very important to store your medications in the original container and make sure the prescription label is legible. When you travel, make sure you have the container. Nothing like being stopped in another state with your perfectly legal medication but still being delayed because it isn’t “properly contained”. It’s a misdemeanor where I live.
If the medication is in a very large bottle, your pharmacist can label a smaller bottle for you to carry on your trip. Also make sure you pack a bottle of water and a snack of some sort. I ALWAYS carry a refillable water bottle and a pack of crackers or a granola bar. I simply cannot tolerate medications on an empty stomach.
Continuing with the safety theme: Make sure you don’t share your medications with other people. It’s dangerous and illegal; don’t risk it. Also don’t save or mix & match antibiotics. That is the way resistant bacteria is born. Take all of your antibiotic EVEN when you feel better. You should never have “left over” antibiotics unless the doctor tells you to quit taking it or switches you to something else. Remember: Feeling better DOES NOT mean the infection is gone. The antibiotic has weakened the bacteria and your body begins to feel better. If you quit taking the medication too early the bacteria recovers, then it is resistant to that particular antibiotic.
When you go to your doctor’s appointment, make sure you have a complete list of your medication. It’s also wise to keep a current, updated list in your purse or wallet-just in case you have to make an unexpected trip to the doctor or ER. Don’t forget to write down the COMPLETE INFORMATION AND INSTRUCTIONS. Example: Levaquin 500 mg by mouth once daily for ten days ~or~ Tylenol 650 mg by mouth every 6 hours as needed for pain or fever. Additionally, make sure you include any herbs, vitamins or other supplements–trust me, it really REALLY matters. When you can, it’s best to bring the bottles to your appointment and make sure your allergies are listed on your medical chart.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for medication safety. As medicine becomes more & more specialized, we have more & more doctors prescribing medications and treatments. In turn, this puts increasing pressure on the patient to be aware and educated about his/her health status and medications.