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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR PATIENT GOES HOME?

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Dec.13.2018
 Basics of Medicine Management

Basics of Medicine Management

Taking your medicines correctly is an important part of managing or preventing medical problems. Make sure you know what disease or condition your medicine is treating, and how and when to take it. If you do not take your medicine correctly, it may not work well and may cause unpleasant side effects, including serious health problems.

What should I do when I am taking medicines?

  • Read all the labels and inserts that come with your medicines. Review the information often.
  • Talk with your pharmacist if you get a refill and notice a change in the size, color, or shape of your medicines.
  • Know the potential side effects for each medicine that you take.
  • Try to get all your medicines from the same pharmacy. The pharmacist will have all your information and will understand how your medicines will affect each other (interact).
  • Tell your health care provider about all your medicines, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal or dietary supplements. He or she will make sure that nothing will interact with any of your prescribed medicines.

How can I take my medicines safely?

  • Take medicines only as told by your health care provider.
    • Do not take more of your medicine than instructed.
    • Do not take anyone else's medicines.
    • Do not share your medicines with others.
    • Do not stop taking your medicines unless your health care provider tells you to do so.
    • You may need to avoid alcohol or certain foods or liquids when taking certain medicines. Follow your health care provider's instructions.
  • Do not split, mash, or chew your medicines unless your health care provider tells you to do so. Tell your health care provider if you have trouble swallowing your medicines.
  • For liquid medicine, use the dosing container that was provided.

How should I organize my medicines?

Know your medicines

  • Know what each of your medicines looks like. This includes size, color, and shape. Tell your health care provider if you are having trouble recognizing all the medicines that you are taking.
  • If you cannot tell your medicines apart because they look similar, keep them in original bottles.
  • If you cannot read the labels on the bottles, tell your pharmacist to put your medicines in containers with large print.
  • Review your medicines and your schedule with family members, a friend, or a caregiver.

Use a pill organizer

  • Use a tool to organize your medicine schedule. Tools include a weekly pillbox, a written chart, a notebook, or a calendar.
  • Your tool should help you remember the following things about each medicine:
    • The name of the medicine.
    • The amount (dose) to take.
    • The schedule. This is the day and time the medicine should be taken.
    • The appearance. This includes color, shape, size, and stamp.
    • How to take your medicines. This includes instructions to take them with food, without food, with fluids, or with other medicines.
  • Create reminders for taking your medicines. Use sticky notes, or alarms on your watch, mobile device, or phone calendar.
  • You may choose to use a more advanced management system. These systems have storage, alarms, and visual and audio prompts.
  • Some medicines can be taken on an "as-needed" basis. These include medicines for nausea or pain. If you take an as-needed medicine, write down the name and dose, as well as the date and time that you took it.

How should I plan for travel?

  • Take your pillbox, medicines, and organization system with you when traveling.
  • Have your medicines refilled before you travel. This will ensure that you do not run out of your medicines while you are away from home.
  • Always carry an updated list of your medicines with you. If there is an emergency, a first responder can quickly see what medicines you are taking.
  • Do not pack your medicines in checked luggage in case your luggage is lost or delayed.
  • If any of your medicines is considered a controlled substance, make sure you bring a letter from your health care provider with you.

How should I store and discard my medicines?

For safe storage:
  • Store medicines in a cool, dry area away from light, or as directed by your health care provider. Do not store medicines in the bathroom. Heat and humidity will affect them.
  • Do not store your medicines with other chemicals, or with medicines for pets or other household members.
  • Keep medicines away from children and pets. Do not leave them on counters or bedside tables. Store them in high cabinets or on high shelves.
For safe disposal:
  • Check expiration dates regularly. Do not take expired medicines. Discard medicines that are older than the expiration date.
  • Learn a safe way to dispose of your medicines. You may:
    • Use a local government, hospital, or pharmacy medicine-take-back program.
    • Mix the medicines with inedible substances, put them in a sealed bag or empty container, and throw them in the trash.

What should I remember?

  • Tell your health care provider if you:
    • Experience side effects.
    • Have new symptoms.
    • Have other concerns about taking your medicines.
  • Review your medicines regularly with your health care provider. Other medicines, diet, medical conditions, weight changes, and daily habits can all affect how medicines work. Ask if you need to continue taking each medicine, and discuss how well each one is working.
  • Refill your medicines early to avoid running out of them.
  • In case of an accidental overdose, call your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or visit your local emergency department immediately. This is important.

Summary

  • Taking your medicines correctly is an important part of managing or preventing medical problems.
  • You need to make sure that you understand what you are taking a medicine for, as well as how and when you need to take it.
  • Know your medicines and use a pill organizer to help you take your medicines correctly.
  • In case of an accidental overdose, call your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or visit your local emergency department immediately. This is important.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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