For Families and Caregivers

Using Medications Safely

By Nicole Rockey, PharmD, BCACP

Medication-related problems are common among patients who take multiple medications.  These problems may lead to unwanted health consequences and sometimes hospitalizations.  It is important to consistently take your medications as directed by your healthcare providers in order to stay healthy and avoid complications.

There are many reasons that people sometimes skip or stop taking their medications.

  • Cost:  Some medications are very expensive with or without prescription insurance.  If you cannot afford your medication, speak with your physician and your pharmacist.  There may be a less expensive alternative that could be substituted.  Also, some manufacturers of brand name medications offer assistance through coupons or patient assistance programs.  Your physician or pharmacist may be able to direct you to these.  You could also try contacting your prescription insurance company to determine if there is a preferred pharmacy or a different medication that may be less expensive.

  • Difficulty Remembering:  Sometimes people forget to take their medications.  If you sometimes forget to take your medications, you could try setting an alarm to help you remember.  If you own a smartphone, you can download applications that have medication reminders.  You could also ask a friend or family member to provide reminders.  Using a pillbox is another great way to improve your medication adherence and to organize your medications.  Weekly and monthly pillboxes are available at most pharmacies.  Some people also keep their medications in certain locations in order to remember to take them.  For example, keeping the medication bottle of a bedtime medication next to your bed may help you remember to take it.

  • Side Effects:  All medications have side effects.  Sometimes people do not want to take medications regularly because they are bothered by side effects.  If side effects are bothersome to you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.  There may be an alternative medication that you could take or they may have a suggestion for changing the way you take the medication that could help minimize side effects.

Medication errors frequently occur when one healthcare provider doesn’t know exactly what another healthcare provider has prescribed.  Carrying an updated medication list that includes the names and doses of your medications with you at all times is important to help prevent these kinds of errors.

Lastly, if you have any concerns or questions about your medications, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.  Keep asking questions until you understand.  It’s important to know why you take each of your medications and the best way to take them.  Taking your medications regularly as directed will keep you healthier.