(By Protégez-Vous in partnership with the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal)
The majority of seniors use medication. Many of them even take several types of drugs every day. If this is your situation, you’ll want to read the following article, which explains how to best manage your medication more safely and effectively.
In Quebec, 61 percent of people over 65 years of age take prescription drugs, with most of them using 3 to 5 different types. Unfortunately, nearly one-quarter of seniors do not correctly follow the instructions provided by their doctor or pharmacist, even though doing so is critical.
Aging can influence the effectiveness and safety of your medications. For example, as you age, your liver – the organ that breaks down drugs – can become less efficient at metabolizing certain medications. The kidneys, whose job it is to eliminate broken-down medications from your system, may also be functioning at lower capacity in later years. In addition, as the human body ages, it begins to have slightly more fat than muscle, hindering the circulation of certain types of drugs throughout the body. This explains why it is so important to take the correct dose at the right time. For various other reasons, some drugs are not suitable for seniors, even while being perfectly fine for a middle-aged man or woman.
Since everyone is different (weight, age, state of health, potential interactions with other drugs and vulnerability), prescriptions must be tailored to each patient. To obtain the desired results, you must take your medications correctly. That means respecting all instructions given to you. For example, if your doctor has prescribed blood pressure medication, you should try to take it at the same time every day. This helps maintain your blood pressure at an appropriate level at all times, reducing the risk of complications associated with hypertension, such as heart attacks and strokes.
If you take several drugs during the day, use a pill dispenser. This handy little item allows you to organize your pills around your meals and bedtime, so you never forget a dose. If you would like to learn more on this, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
While medications fulfil many important therapeutic goals (curing or preventing disease, easing pain or supporting health), they can also generate unwanted side effects. It goes without saying that the more medications you take, the higher your chances of experiencing side effects. When you start a new drug, pay special attention to how your body reacts.
List of possible reactions
If you experience side effects, talk to your pharmacist and your doctor. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, they may decide to:
Up to 50 percent of problems related to prescription drugs can be avoided. Optimistically speaking, this objective could be reached within the next decade. In fact, a growing number of patients want to understand their health problems and the repercussions these have on their lives. They also want to know how to manage their health in order to improve their quality of life.
To reduce problems associated with prescription drugs, be sure to work in partnership with your health care team (pharmacist, nurses and doctor). To learn more about the safe, effective use of medications, consult the Take your medications seriously Website developed by the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec.
Good to know!
Consulting your pharmacist is the number one way to properly and safely manage your prescription medications, non-prescription medications and natural health products. Pharmacists are medication experts. They know the side effects and possible interactions with natural products and food.
Articles available in French only.
“Guide pratique de l’aide aux aînés,” Protégez-Vous, August 2011. (In French only)
“Des médicaments dangereux pour les aînés,” Protégez-Vous, July 2011. (In French only)
“Tips on using medication properly”, MSSS
[UNIPRIX] - The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.