Setting up a Medication Routine That Works for You
By Susan Bean, M.D., Vice President and Medical Director, Healthfirst
We all have good intentions, but sometime following everything that our doctor or practitioner recommends or requires is just plain tough! Common concerns that patient’s express are: “I take so many pills, and I can’t keep them all straight!”; “My prescription is so expensive, so I just take half a pill a day so they last longer”; or“I feel great now, so I wonder why I still need this medicine.”
Here’s what I want to emphasize: your health matters! So, I recommend working with and agreeing with your doctors on strategies for taking your prescribed medications daily and just as required. It’s important to talk with your doctor about the medications you are taking, why you are taking them, and how these medications will control your medical conditions and keep you healthy.
For your next appointment, here are some great questions you can ask your doctor. They were developed by the NYC City Departmentof Health and Mental Hygiene:
1. Why do I need to take this medication?
2. Is there a less expensive medication that would work as well like a generic?
3. What are the side-effects and how can I deal with them?
4. Can I stop taking any of my other medications?
5. Is it okay to take my medication with over-the-counter drugs, herbs, or vitamins?
6. How can I remember to take my medication?
Strategies for Success in Sticking with your Medications
First, I recommend filling out a medication list with your doctor and taking the above list of questions to your next appointment. You can download both of these from the NYC City Departmentof Health and Mental Hygiene website. Just go to the Healthy Living tab> Healthy Aging>Managing your Medicine.
Next, it’s helpful to take your prescriptions regularly and make them a part of your daily routine. If you have a habit of forgetting to pick up your medication, it might be useful to get your physician to write a 90-day prescription that can be mailed directly to your home instead of a regular 30-day prescription. You might try daily reminders such as a pill box or a daily cell phone alarm to remember to take your medications at certain times.
Finally, when it comes to choosing a pharmacy, try going to one pharmacy for all of your medications. It’s helpful to pick a pharmacy that uses a refill reminder system so you get a call when you need to pick up your next month’s supply. Then you can synchronize your refills and pick up all your medications at the same time.
It’s important that if you have barriers to taking your medications—there’s not a pharmacy near you, it’s hard to integrate the medications into your daily routine, etc.—that you talk to your doctor so he or she can help you develop a plan to overcome these problems. Your desire for a healthier life will be rewarded as you set up a system to take your medicines as prescribed – a medication system that works for you.
Dr. Beane is Vice President and Medical Director at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirstwebsite at www.healthfirst.org.