To Your Health
March, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 03)
This type of proactive communication is especially important for seniors, many of whom are already taking several medications. A report issued by HealthGrades in July 2004 found that from 2000-2002, an estimated 195,000 Medicare patients died each year
due to potentially preventable medical errors in hospitals. A different report, published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Medical Association
, estimated that every month, roughly 10 adverse drug events occurred for every 100 residents of long-term care facilities. The same study also estimated that 42 percent of these adverse drug events were preventable and that 61 percent of events deemed serious, life-threatening or fatal were preventable.
While drugless health care should always be your first option, the reality is that certain medical conditions require just that: medicine. Remember that no drug comes without side effects, but if you must take prescription medication, take initiative, be proactive and get the whole story.
"I Have to Take Medication - What Can I Do to Minimize the Risks?
"Let's face it: For certain health conditions, medication is absolutely necessary, and quite effective. A good example is epilepsy, which can lead to uncontrolled seizures if not managed with Tegretol, Dilantin or similar drugs. In such situations, the question is not whether to take the medication, but how you can ensure that the drug does its "job" without causing you harm. Here are some standard tips to help avoid the dangers of drug reactions and interactions:
1 Memorize the size, shape, color and strength of any medication you've been prescribed. Question any changes that have not been fully explained by your doctor/pharmacist.
2 Especially if you are taking medication long-term or are taking multiple medications simultaneously, maintain a calendar that makes it clear when you are supposed to take each medication.
3 Purchase a pill box/organizer. For the senior population, this is essential to minimize the risk of an overdose. It's also a good way to transport your medication, rather than the "stuff it into a bag/purse" approach.
4 Each time you're prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor about all of the potential side effects. There are also a number of online resources at your disposal - a good one is the Physician's Desk Reference site (www.pdr.net).
Julie Engebretson is a freelance writer for To Your Health. She currently resides in New York City.