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Managing your medication

Thanks to the advances of modern medicine, Australians are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. As we age, however, we often encounter an unfortunate by-product: a growing list of pills, liquids and vitamins to factor into our daily lives.

Lady with medication

Keeping track

With the exception of over-the-counter drugs like aspirin or Panadol Osteo, most of your medications will require an in-date prescription from your general practitioner (GP).

If you sometimes find it difficult to keep track of all your repeats and their respective expiry dates, consider leaving your prescriptions on file at your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist should be able to keep track of all of your prescriptions and advise you when they are about to expire or run out, which will prevent you from ever having to arrange a last minute doctor’s appointment or disrupt your routine and skip tablets.

Your pharmacist will also be able to let you know when you reach your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net threshold ($372), at which point you will receive your medications for free until the close of the financial year.

Staying safe

According to a 2013 review of medication safety in Australia, medication-related incidents are most common amongst those aged 65 and over and account for 20 to 30 per cent of hospital admissions in this age group, roughly half of which could be prevented with appropriate management measures.

1) Ensure that you dispose of any expired or out-of-use medications rather than allow them to clutter up the medicine cabinet. Most pharmacies have disposal bins on-site and will be more than happy to safely destroy your excess.

2) Select a local GP you trust and stick with them to ensure that you have a consistent treatment plan without any overlapping or contraindicated medications. If you ever have to see an unfamiliar GP – for example, while out of town – be sure to disclose all of your current medications and provide as much information as you can.

3) Always follow the instructions on the packet. If they don’t match up with what your doctor told you, don’t be afraid to call and double check. While rare, human error does happen and it’s best to avoid the risk when it comes to your health and wellbeing.

4) If you’re feeling adverse side effects from something you’re taking, consult your GP immediately for advice on ceasing it, lowering your dosage or switching to an alternative medication.

5) Although easier said than done, try to keep on top of each individual medication you’re taking and its purpose to ensure that you’re up to date and can make well-informed choices about your healthcare.

Communicating well

When it comes to managing your medication, it should be a team effort between you, your GP, your pharmacist and your support network (which may include a spouse, family members or in-home care attendants).

If you’re feeling nervous about your medication management, it’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist. They may recommend a home medicine review, which involves a certified pharmacist visiting your home to discuss your medication habits and work with you to formulate an effective management program.

Another great option is requesting that your pharmacist packages your medication in a Webster-pak, which groups a week’s worth of medication into daily breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime doses and can be a highly effective management tool. Most pharmacies will offer this service for a small fee and can even prepare multiple packs to last you several weeks if you’re going on holiday or into hospital.

With these tips and appropriate support from your healthcare professionals, it should be easier to manage your medication safely and continue to live an active and healthy life.

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