April 1-7th is Medication Safety Week, started by the Women’s Heart Foundation, which is geared towards bringing national attention to the 6th leading cause for death. For people taking several medications at a time it is important to learn how to protect yourself from complications that can arise. There are several steps you can take this week to improve your medication safety.
The Following information is from the Women’s Heart Foundation Website:
- April 1: Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
Start with a clean slate. Discard outdated medicines and old prescriptions. Many drugs lose their potency over time. Store medicines in their original containers and in a cool, dry place. Locate medicines away from children and pets and from those who do not understand.
- April 2: Know Your Medicines
Know both the generic and trade names of your medicines. Know how to identify pills and know what they are for. Make a list of all the medicines you are taking. Write down both the generic and brand names of medicines as this may prevent inadvertently double-dosing. Know the drug’s purpose and why you are taking it. Be able to identify pills by name. List prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, birth control pills and patches and supplements. Keep the list updated and keep it with you at all times. Print out your free Medication Record (pdf format) by double-clicking on Medication Record (English version) or Medication Record (Spanish version).
- April 3: Read Medicine Labels Carefully
Are you taking what your doctor ordered and the way he ordered it? Note precautionary stickers on the label. Note the route, dose and frequency of your medicines. Keep medicines in their original containers. Pay attention to warnings. Note that some medicines can react with foods. Others have to be taken on an empty stomach. Some lose potency quickly and must be kept in an air-tight container. The effectiveness of many medicines is dependent upon taking them at the correct times. How the medicine is to be taken ––the route–– is also important (i.e. by mouth, through the skin, under the tongue, inhaling, rectal or vaginal suppository, enema or douche). Be careful!
- April 4: Dietary Supplements Awareness
Discuss taking a dietary supplement with your doctor or practitioner and your pharmacist before you start it. Herbal medicines and other dietary supplements can react with medicines and have an unknown synergistic effect. All herbal preparations are contraindicated while pregnant or breastfeeding. For more information, go to Dietary Supplements.
- April 5: Organize Your Medicines
Keep an updated record listing all medicines and supplements you are taking. Use of a medicine organizer box may be helpful, especially for those taking more than one pill several times a day, however, a medicine organizer box requires close monitoring, especially when there is a change in medicines. Also, be aware that use of an organizer box violates the rule of keeping medicines in their original containers. Managing pills with a medicine organizer box, while convenient, is not without risk. Take medicines as prescribed. New drugs with time-released action can offer some help with organizing with only once-a-day medicating. Ask your doctor about these newer medicines. Keep your medicine record up-to-date. Go to Taking Medications Safely.
- April 6: Transitional Care Awareness
A change in medical regimen can be confusing and can place you at increased risk. Be diligent about communication with all healthcare professionals. Make sure you understand your medicinces and how you are to take them before leaving the hospital or doctor’s office. Ask for written instructions. Be extra cautious whenever there is a change in your medical regimen. Double-check your medicines when picking up a new or refilled prescription. If in a hospital or nursing home, make sure the nurse checks your I.D. bracelet before giving you your pills. If a pill doesn’t look familiar, ask why. It may be a generic of the same drug you were taking however, if you don’t ask, you won’t know! Make sure you receive written instructions upon discharge from any medical facility and insist that both the generic and brand names of each drug you are to take is included. Follow the tips listed on the Healthy Hearts Guide Taking Medications Safely.
- April 7: Better Communication With Health Professionals
Actively seek information from your pharmacist about the pills and the supplements that you are taking. Ask for print-out sheets on drugs. Discuss all risks and benefits with your prescribing practitioner. Share information about the medicines and supplements you are taking with all your prescribing practitioners and with your pharmacist. Discuss expected effects and possible side effects. Discuss if there are any serious side-effects that your doctor needs to know about right away. Report adverse drug effects promptly and never hesitate to ask questions when it comes your health and the use of medicines. Your doctor, healthcare practitioner and pharmacist are there to help…just ask! Go to Taking Medications Safely. Go to Taking Coumadin® at Home for safety tips when taking warfarin – a blood thinner.
American Medical Alarms also highly recommends that you have a Vial a Life to keep your emergency medical information. The Vial a Life program is nationally recognized and saves countless lives each year by providing rescue with pertinent, life saving information when you are unable to speak for yourself. You can obtain a FREE Vial a Life today at American Medical Alarms.