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Medications 3: What you need to know...

Published by Chapster on 2002/12/20 (3914 reads)
The newest transcript from our monthly broadcasts is now here. It is the third, and last, in a series on medications. You can also here it occasionally (played randomly at 10:15AM, 2:15PM and 6:15PM Monday through Friday) on KEOM in the Dallas area (88.5FM).

KEOM Community Focus
Of Pills and Healing

Q: So, what are we talking about today, Mike?

A: Today. I thought we'd conclude our discussion about medications. First, to summarize what we said in our last two segments. We began by pointing out that medications have the potential for doing great harm as well as doing great good. For this reason, it is essential that there be ONE person, our primary physician, who is aware of every one of the medications we are taking, and how they are taken. Even if they were prescribed by another physician, our primary care physician should always be told about them. Second, we should keep in mind that even supplements, the supposedly natural treatments available in the vitamin department, may be dangerous, by themselves or due to interactions with other supplements or medicines. Really, supplements should be considered to be medicines, though our government currently only requires that they be labeled like foods.

Q: What else do we need to know about medicines?

A: Particularly with the elderly, it is important that they have some way to organize their medications. Many pharmacies have little pill organizers with compartments arranged so that it is easier to remember when to take them and which ones to take. Caregivers can set the pills to be taken at a particular time into the little compartments. That way, they are able to know if pills were taken when they were supposed to be or not. Of course, if someone has dementia or is sedated and cannot manage their medication routine, even the most simple system is likely inappropriate, unless someone is right there to supervise.

It's also a good idea to make up a list of all medications, what times they are taken, and what they are for. This list should be taken to the primary care physician whenever the loved one goes in for a check-up.

Q: What should be included on the list?

A: The list should include your understanding of the following: the times of day when the medicine is to be taken, whether on a full or empty stomach, and what foods or liquids or other medicines should be avoided while taking each prescription. Caregivers should also include in their list over-the-counter medicines that are taken routinely, and a rough estimate of the dosage and frequency. Things like laxatives, antacids, and pain relievers can seriously complicate the effectiveness of other medicines, mask other symptoms, or create harmful new ones.

Q: It seems like the physician has a part in this, too?

A: Absolutely. Pharmaceuticals are becoming more and more specialized. Therefore, it is more important than ever to follow your physician's directions. Unless you carefully follow the physician and pharmacist's instructions, you risk effectively neutralizing the value of, say, an antibiotic. For instance, some antibiotics should not be taken with milk. As another example, still talking about antibiotics, it is essential to make every effort to not miss dosages and to finish taking the entire course of antibiotics, unless your doctor specifically tells you to stop. The problem is that some of the microorganisms that make us sick can develop a resistance to antibiotics if they are not finished out. Again, the directions of the physician should be closely followed.

Of course, these suggestions are little help unless your primary care physician has the time to spend with you and your list. His or her feedback is important and you should feel like you have the freedom to ask questions. Even things like making sure what time of day a medicine is to be taken is significant.

We should also be clear about the kinds of side-effects to look for. Of course, if we'll take the time to actually read those little papers that come with our prescription, that'll help too.

Q: There's a lot of information here, Mike. Where can our listeners get more help?

A: Well, of course, they can get a transcript of our conversation and much more at But, more than anything else, we want to encourage the listeners to talk with their health professionals. Nothing we've said today is a substitute for that absolutely necessary conversation.

Tags: elderly   medication   drug   pharmaceutical   physician   interaction  

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