Thursday, June 7, 2007

Did you remember to take your pill today?

Do you remember to take your medications? If you’re prescribed antibiotics, do you remember to finish the whole course?

Getting patients to remember to take their medications or to take them correctly is a major problem in health care today. As treatment regimens get more complicated and the average age of the person taking medications is rising, so-called medication non-compliance is even more common.

I don't like that term, non-compliance, but that's what healthcare professionals use. Non-compliance, to me, implies that it’s a deliberate act: I’m not going to take my pills. But as someone who does chronically forget to take her medications, I deny that I’m non-compliant, I’m just very forgetful. Sure, I can remember for a few days, but then, forget it. I can’t even remember to take my vitamin.

So, what is the problem? First, many older people are getting multiple prescriptions, sometimes from different doctors because of the number of specialists they may see. This leads to a timing issue because some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach, some need to be taken with food, some in the morning, some at night. Oh, and don’t forget not to take some medications with grapefruit juice. Then, there’s the convenience, or inconvenience, of taking them. For someone with little appetite, it’s hard to eat regularly, in fact, they may just eat a couple of times a day whenever the mood hits them. If they’re taking pills that need to be take at each meal time, this can cause a problem.

Finally, there’s just plain forgetfulness, like me. I always say I have a great memory, it’s just too short.

That’s for the accidental, or non-deliberate non-compliance, but what of those who do it deliberately. There are many reasons for that. We have the problem of side effects. Some people start to take their medications but are not happy with the side effects they experience. They could include sleepiness or sleeplessness, decreased appetite or increased appetite; there are a whole host of side effects. While some are manageable, others are too difficult; so rather than speak to the doctor, some people decrease their dosage, change the times they take the pills, or stop taking them altogether.

In some cases, medications are too expensive for the budget, so people cut down on their dose or decide not to take the medication at all. It could be that the pills are too difficult to swallow, the bottles too hard to open, or that people don’t feel sick, so they don’t feel they need to take their medications.

Whatever the reason, a big part of health care today is promoting safe and healthy medication routines. If you or someone you care about is having problems with medications, there are ways to help.

If it’s just plain forgetfulness, there are different techniques. Now, I have a week’s supply of my medication, plus vitamin, in a pill box by my computer and I take my pills ever morning. But that wasn’t feasible when my kids were young, because you can’t leave medications within reach of children. I tried calendars on the fridge – didn’t work for me, but might work for you. Stickers on a calendar? Tear off tags by the phone? Some sort of memory jogger.

If there are too many pills, you can try speaking with the doctors to see if the number of medications can be cut down. It could be that a newer, longer lasting medication has come on the market since you first started taking a particular pill. If it’s meal issues, you may need to speak with a dietician or nutritionist to find a way to be sure the pills are taken properly and when they should be taken.

If in doubt, ever, ask your pharmacist. Pharmacists are the number one source for medication knowledge. Sure, the doctors know the drugs, they have to. But pharmacists know everything there is to know about the drug, or they know where to look.

Take care of yourself. Take your meds safely. Since I began my system and finally remembering to take my medication every day, it’s made all the difference in the world.

Today’s News:
Nursing shortage a global problem, convention told
Surgery begins on conjoined twin girls

1 comment:

Sue said...

that's my downfall. i always forget to take pills when they are prescribed.