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Advice on Taking Medicines Safely

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 12 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Taking Medicines Safely Storing Medicine

It’s quite natural to expect that as we get older we become more susceptible to illnesses and injuries and, as a result, we’re more likely to need to take medication more often. However, to complicate matters, even though we may need a specific medication at a particular time, elderly people can be more at risk from medication for several reasons. Firstly, because your body is ageing, you’re more at risk of suffering side effects.

You’re also possibly likely to be taking medication for other ailments at the same time and adding a new one can sometimes pose a problem in terms of how all the medications react to each other. Then there’s also the problem of other physical effects such as failing eyesight and memory which can have severe consequences in relation to knowing what medication you’re taking, when and how you’re supposed to take it, how much the dosage is and for how many days/weeks you need to keep taking it.

Basic Advice
Whenever you are prescribed any medication by your GP, you should ask what it does and what it’s for. You also need to ask about any side effects, when you need to take it, how much you need to take and for how long. It’s also useful to get to learn the names of the different medications you might be taking. Most medicines will usually have more than one. That will be because it’ll have both a generic name and a brand name e.g. ‘Valium’ is a brand name whilst ‘Diazepam’ is its generic equivalent. To confuse things even more, these can often come in different types of packaging so if your pharmacist hands over a medication that you don’t recognise, ask them to explain it.

Taking Medication
Make sure that you follow the advice from your GP and what’s on the label of the medication in terms of how you take it and make sure you’re familiar with what you should do if you forget to take it or take too much. Always read the label and check the expiry date and if you have difficulties doing any of these things, appoint a family member or trusted friend to administer the medicine on your behalf.

Side Effects
You should have discussed any possible known side effects with your GP before they wrote out the prescription so you should be aware of any possible side effects that may occur as a result. You’ll not necessary experience any side effects at all but if you do, they should hopefully diminish within a couple of days and if not, you should speak to your GP again. It may simply be a case of reducing the dosage but it’s best to make sure. Likewise, if you feel the medication is not helping your condition in any way, tell your GP.

Storing Medication
Always store medication in a secure place and away from children. If you are administering the medication on behalf of someone else, make sure it’s secured and even take it home with you if you have doubts that it would be safe where it is. Keep the medication in the container in which it was supplied. Never transfer it to another container as the chances are you will forget what the medication was for and when it expires both of which could be highly dangerous.

Herbal Remedies
It’s important to mention herbal or other forms of alternative medication when it comes to taking medicines safely. It’s fair to say that millions of people swear by herbal remedies and other alternative therapies and, whilst that is perfectly acceptable, if you do intend to take any herbal remedies, be sure to discuss that with your GP first before going ahead as they can cause different reactions in different people, especially so if you are also taking other prescription medicines at the same time, as some herbal remedies can react with prescribed drugs.

Your GP and pharmacist are the first people you should speak to if you have any questions about taking medicines.

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