Safe use of medication

As people get older, their use of medicines tends to increase.  Making a medicines list is a great way to ensure the safe use of medication, and also that any other healthcare professionals you come in contact with will know what medication you are taking.  You can download a blank form on the HSE’s website, fill it in, keep it in your home and always bring it with you to every medical appointment.  An up to date medicines list for would always be very useful in a medical emergency.  Many people find it very useful to take a picture of their completed medicines list on their phone.

What is My Medicines List?   My Medicines List is a list of all the medicines and supplements you take.

Why should I use it?  Keeping an up-to-date list can help you know your medicines. It can also help you when discussing your medicines with a healthcare professional.

How should I fill it in?  To fill out My Medicines List, you need all your medicines in front of you. Another option is to ask your pharmacist to print out a list for you. Make sure you include all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines and supplements.

How should I use it?  Keep your list up to date. Bring it with you when attending any healthcare appointment. You may find it useful to keep a photo of this list on your phone.

How can I get another form?  To get another copy, you can print from or ask for a copy at your local pharmacy.

It is estimated that four in five people over 75 take at least one prescribed medicine, with 36% taking four or more medicines (UK data) . Alongside this comes increasing challenges to ensure the safe use of medication, taking into consideration how the ageing process affects the body’s capacity to handle medicines. Multiple diseases and complicated medication regimes may affect patients’ capacity and ability to manage their own medication regime.

Carers are often in a position to support older people in the safe use of medication: even though they are not allowed to administer medication they can prompt their client to take the correct dose at the correct time.

You should ask your doctor the following questions about a new medicine:

  • What is the name of the medicine and why am I taking it?
  • What medical condition does this medicine treat?
  • How many times a day should I take it? At what time(s)? If the bottle says take “4 times a day,” does that mean 4 times in 24 hours or 4 times during the daytime?
  • How much medicine should I take?
  • Should I take the medicine with food or not? Is there anything I should not eat or drink when taking this medicine?
  • How long will it take this medicine to work?
  • Will this medicine cause problems if I am taking other medicines?
  • Is it safe for me to drive while taking this medication?
  • What does “as needed” mean?
  • When should I stop taking the medicine?
  • If I forget to take my medicine, what should I do?
  • What side effects can I expect? What should I do if I have a problem?
  • Will I need a refill? How do I arrange that?

A pharmacist can answer many of your questions about prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Try to have all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy so your records are in one place. This will help alert the pharmacist if a new drug might cause a problem with something else you are taking. If you’re not able to use just one pharmacy, show the pharmacist at each pharmacy your list of medicines and over-the-counter drugs when you drop off your prescription.

When you have a prescription filled:

  • Tell the pharmacist if you have trouble swallowing pills. There may be liquid medicine available. Do not chew, break, or crush tablets without first finding out if the drug will still work.
  • Make sure you can read and understand the name of the medicine as well as the directions on the container and on the colour-coded warning stickers on the bottle. If the label is hard to read, ask your pharmacist to use larger type.
  • Check that you can open the container. If not, ask the pharmacist to put your medicines in bottles that are easier to open.
  • Ask about special instructions on where to store a medicine. For example, should it be kept in the refrigerator or in a dry place?
  • Check the label on your medicine before leaving the pharmacy. It should have your name on it and the directions given by your doctor. If it doesn’t, don’t take it, and talk with the pharmacist.

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