Your Resource Behind the Counter: Ask The Pharmacist
As a person gets older, it’s likely that he or she may need to begin taking medication on a more regular basis, for conditions ranging from the minor – such as a bothersome old injury or minor arthritis – to more serious conditions involving blood pressure, the heart, or other vital organs. Add into the mix an increased likelihood to suffer from seasonal viruses or injuries, and seniors can suddenly be facing a confusing, potentially dangerous mix of medications, prescriptions, and doctors’ directions.
The good news is that there is an excellent resource available to help you navigate your health care involving medications; all you must do is come prepared with the questions and be willing to ask. Your pharmacist is more than just a retailer of medicines. In fact, a pharmacist must not only be licensed in his or her state, but must also have earned a doctorate degree; it typically takes 6-8 years to become a pharmacist.
So the next time you’re picking up your prescription and your pharmacist asks, “Any questions on this medication?,” why not take the chance to ensure you have the full picture by asking some of the following questions?
1. What is the name of this medication and what is it supposed to do?
It’s easy to get confused with multiple medications; however, you should always know the names of your medications and what each is intended to do. Store notes in a small notebook if you need to, and include names, dosage, and purpose for each, especially with long-term medication. Always tell your pharmacist about any additional medications you are taking, such as non-prescription, over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements, and even vitamins. This can help reduce the likelihood of adverse drug effects or interactions.
2. How and when should I take this medication?
It may sound simple, but when you’re in the moment, you may walk away realizing you haven’t asked the most basic questions, such as:
How often should I take it?
Should I take it on an empty stomach or with food?
Should I take it at the same time every day?
How long should I take it? How should I store it, and how long is it good for?
Should I avoid certain foods or alcohol?
3. What if I forget to take my medication, or take a dose incorrectly?
This is an excellent question to have an answer for before it happens. The answer will depend on the type of medication you’re taking, so ask your pharmacist when you are picking up your prescription. Some medications allow you to take a make-up dose right away, while others allow you to simply wait until your next regular dosing time. You can also ask his or her opinion on boxes or devices that can help you remember to take your proper dose every day. Some medications allow you to stop taking them once you’re feeling better, but be sure to clarify this with your pharmacist. With other medications, it’s imperative you take the entire prescribed amount.
4. What are the possible side effects?
Always be sure to tell your pharmacist about any additional medications you are taking, as some can cause adverse interactions. This includes non-prescription drugs, over-the-counter painkillers, herbal supplements and teas, and vitamins. It’s helpful to ask about possible side effects of a prescribed medication, and if there are any components that could cause an allergic reaction. Follow up by asking what you should do if you happen to experience a reaction or a side effect.
Before you leave:
Now that you have your medication and you’ve asked all your questions, take a quick moment to ensure that you have:
The correct medication (check the name on the label; if it is a refill and anything in the appearance is different, ask your pharmacist)
Dosing tools, like a syringe, cup, or measuring spoon (household measuring spoons can give you inaccurate measures, so you should avoid them)
Any additional printed information your pharmacist might have on your new medication
The phone number of your pharmacy in case you need to call back with additional questions
Remember that you are your own best advocate. Your pharmacist is there to help you, so come prepared and ready to listen. Speak up for yourself and ask the questions you need answer to be truly informed and safe.