TAKE CHARGE… of your medications

How many people routinely pay $3 for a bottle of water at the grocery store for “healthier-than-tap” water, avoid the pesticides in nonorganic blueberries for fear of cancer, and carry antibacterial gel in their purse to steer clear of the germs on grocery cart handlebars? But for some reason, when it comes to placing a large number of synthetic chemicals, or medicines, in our bodies every day for years at a time, we ask very few questions about them and stay on them often indefinitely without carefully finding out more.

Here at Memory Center Charlotte, we are a teeny bit “obsessed” about medications. Our patients are instructed to bring every bottle to each appointment. Our families/caregivers are taught how to keep an updated medication log, which includes the answers to the questions below. The patient’s entire medication list is carefully reviewed at each appointment – are there side effects, is this effective and should it be continued and if so, for how long. We communicate with our patients’ primary care doctors or other specialists when we taper or discontinue medications no longer needed.

Here are 5 questions everyone (this includes you) taking a daily medication needs to ask in order to “Take Charge”:

1. What is the brand name and generic name of each of my medications- and which am I taking right now?

Most of the time generic is just as effective- and a lot cheaper- than name brand.  It is important to be consistent in the formulation you take for a few classes of medications, such as thyroid replacement.

2. What is the purpose of each medication I am taking (ie. Treat my high blood pressure, prevent blood clots, help with my anxiety)?

One of our patients was prescribed a medication for hair replacement 15 years ago, and was still taking this when we met him, even though he has been completely bald for the past 10 years. Numerous negative side effects resolved when we stopped this unnecessary daily medication.

 3. Which doctor prescribed each medication?

When our age/health insurance/city of residence changes, we often change physicians, and some medications were prescribed “3 doctors ago.” Your new physician needs to know who prescribed it, when and why. Its’ need can then be re-evaluated on a regular basis.

 4. When did I begin each medication (month/year)?

 This helps your MD know how long you have been treated for a particular diagnosis.

 5. Will I stay on this medication forever? If not, how will I know when it should be stopped or the dose changed?

What is the treatment goal- an improved symptom, a lab result in the normal range, a certain range of blood pressure? As folks age (and ours are often in their 70-80s), the target range for blood pressure is generally higher than when these medications were first prescribed, which was typically in their 50-60s. Our patients are at high risk for falls, and lower blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension) is a major contributing factor. The risks and benefits of these medications are on the front of our minds and often the dosages need to be reduced or discontinued.

 So, please take this list to your next visit, ask the questions and get answers –  Take Charge! of your medications!