As the body ages, the way medication affects the body also changes.

This is especially true for people trying to manage chronic conditions that might require multiple prescriptions. It can be difficult to keep track of how and when to take your medication, or even what medication to take.

Learning how to organize your medication schedule and understanding how prescriptions can affect you is an important part of staying healthy. Staying on top of your medication schedule can also help prevent mistakes, such as missing a dose, overdosing, or not taking the medicine as prescribed.

The key to proper medication management is to stay organized. When recording the prescription drugs and supplements you have, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I Have a List?

The first step to medication management is to make sure your doctor and pharmacist have an updated record of the prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements you take.

You may want to make a list to help you keep track of your medications. The information on this list should include:

  • The name of the medication
  • The prescribed dosage
  • When you started and stopped taking the medication
  • How often you take the medication
  • The name of the doctor who prescribed the medication

Having all your prescription drug information in one place can help you easily and quickly make decisions about your health care and prevent mistakes. Be sure to bring an updated copy of your medication list to appointments with your physician, or doctor.

Should I Consider a Personal Health Record (PHR)?

A PHR is an online report where users can look at their health information in real time. The report includes a list of medications, lab results, diagnoses, and immunization histories. This information is regularly updated. Many medical groups also have an online portal or network where you can access your electronic health records by setting up an account. Usually, you can even email or message your doctor directly through the portal.

Are These Medications Safe Together?

When taking multiple medications, it is important to understand the possible side effects or unwanted interactions that can occur. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about side effects or health changes that could happen as doses change, new drugs are introduced, and medications are combined.

Common side effects could include:

If you notice any change in your well-being, it is important to let your doctor know right away.

Have I Spoken With My Doctor?

It is important to make sure your doctor and pharmacist stay up to date on your medical situation as it changes over time. Both should discuss with you the medications you should be taking and provide instructions to safely take them. Your doctor and pharmacist can also answer your questions, offer referrals, and more.

Are My Medications Expired or Unneeded?

Use a tracking sheet to know when it’s time to throw away medication or request a refill. If you’re experiencing a side effect from your medication, talk to your doctor about whether you can reduce the dosage or try a different treatment method.

Most prescription drugs should be thrown away in the trash. Never flush them down a toilet or in the sink. To prevent theft, mix the medicines with a distasteful substance, such as dirt, coffee grounds, or kitty litter. For more sensitive medications, seal it in a plastic bag and throw the container away. Be sure to also remove the label and any personal information on the container.

There are also community-based pharmacy “take-back” programs that allow you to safely get rid of unused or expired medicines. Many police departments in Connecticut also allow 24/7 access to safe, convenient options for throwing away unused and expired medical  drugs.

Visit the DEEP (the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) website for more info on collections for unwanted medicines.

Tips to Take Medication Safely

  • Store your medicine away from your spouse or partner’s medications to avoid them possibly getting mixed up. 
  • Keep your medicine out of reach from children and pets. A locked box, cabinet, or closet is best.
  • Use a pillbox or medication organizer. Be sure to keep the original containers for dosing and refill information. Many pharmacies offer free delivery and/or free pre-filling of medication boxes at no cost. Talk to your pharmacist to see if this option is available to you.
  • Set an alarm, reminder, or use an online service or mobile app to keep track of when to take your medicine.
  • Bring a family member or loved one with you to the doctor’s office or pharmacist to make sure you are getting the correct medication.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about any potential allergic reactions you could have to the medication.
  • Make sure your doctor or pharmacist carefully explains to you why you need a specific prescription.