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 responsibly manage what, how, and when to take your medication.

Learning how to manage your medication well and understanding how they affect you is an important part of staying healthy. Proper medication management can also help prevent errors from happening, such as missing a dose, overdosing or not taking the medicine as prescribed.

The key to proper medication management is to stay organized. When taking stock of 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 ensure your doctor and pharmacist have an updated record of the prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements you take.

You may wish to make a table like the one below to help you keep track of your medications. Keeping all your prescription drug information in one place can help you easily and swiftly make decisions about your health care and prevent errors.

Should I Consider a Personal Health Record (PHR)?

It is also possible to manage your medications online using a personal health record (PHR). A PHR is an online report where users can review their health information in real time. The report includes a list of medications, lab results, diagnoses, and immunization histories. Information is automatically pulled from a variety of sources and is regularly updated.

The State of Connecticut created goPHR, a web-based platform where users can access their health information. Visit goPHR for more information and to sign-up.

Are These Medications OK Together?

When taking multiple medications, it is important to understand the possible side effects or adverse interactions that may occur. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about potential 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 vital to contact your doctor right away for guidance.

Have I Spoken With My Doctor?

Following the questions above, it is important to ensure your doctor and pharmacist remain up-to-date on your medical situation as it changes over time. Both specialists should review with you what medications you should be taking and offer the appropriate instructions to safely consume the medicine. They are also available to answer your questions, offer referrals and more.

It may also be helpful to minimize the number of health-care providers you use. Case managers, specialists, caregivers and family members involved with your health need to maintain good communication with your health practitioners to prevent or reduce problems. Consolidating the number of doctors and pharmacists you use may also keep you more organized.

Are My Medications Expired or Unneeded?

Use a tracking sheet to determine when it’s time to dispose of medication or request a refill. If you’re feeling a side effect from your medication, consult your doctor on whether you can reduce dosage or seek an alternative treatment method.

Most prescription drugs can be disposed of easily in the trash. Never flush them down a toilet or in the sink. To prevent theft, mix the medicines with an unpalatable 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 medication container.

There are also community-based pharmacy ‘take-back’ programs that can safely dispose of unused or expired medicines, and many police departments in Connecticut have round-the-clock access to safe, convenient disposal options for unused and expired pharmaceutical 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 separate from those of your spouse and 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 to access dosing and refill information. Many local pharmacies offer free delivery and/or free pre-packaging or pre-filling of medication boxes at no cost. Consult with your pharmacist to see if this option is available to you.
  • Set an alarm, reminder, or use an online service or smartphone 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 ensure you are receiving the correct medication.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about any potential allergic reactions.
  • Of course, make sure your doctor or pharmacist carefully explains to you why you need a specific prescription.

Learn More: Learn how to pay for prescription drugs.