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Managing Your Medicines

Medications are often a big challenge for older patients, especially in terms of finding the right doses. It's good to start with a low dose of a medication and increase based on need and how well it's tolerated because most side effects are related to dosing.

Age changes the makeup of your body and how it processes medicine, so some medications stay around longer in older adults. This difference also increases the risks of side effects at doses used in younger patients. If you have new symptoms after starting a medication, tell your doctor.

Health Tip: Bring your medicine bottles to your health visits.

The containers often give information not included in electronic lists from the pharmacy. Reviewing the medicine you take at every health visit can help identify repeated medications and clear up confusion.

About 4 out of 10 older patients may be taking five or more medications. It is common for them to be on many more. "Polypharmacy" refers to the use of multiple medications, including those you can get over the counter without a prescription. You should be active in your care, especially if you are on many medications from different providers.

Discuss medications you are taking with your health care team, including nurses, pharmacists and physicians. Ask for ways to simplify them. Stopping therapy, or "de-prescribing," should be considered to reduce the medication burden if possible.

Here are some questions to ask about each medication you take:

  • Is it likely to treat my symptoms and make me feel better?
  • Is it likely to reduce the risk of future illness?
  • Is it likely to cause side effects?
  • Last Edited 01/31/2018