The Safety Net

Personal Medication Safety


Medication safety issues for consumers living independently or family members that help the consumer with medications are similar to those of any person living independently in the community. Without support for medication administration, there may be a higher potential for not following doctor's orders and experiencing drug interactions associated with over-the-counter products and recreational drugs. There is also the possibility of missing a dosage since it is not uncommon for someone to forget to take medications, especially when there are complicated dosing schedules. The above issues can all lead to adverse drug effects or treatment failure. There are, however, established methods for reducing the risk of these and other types of errors.

Talk to Your Doctor

Safety starts by talking with your doctor about your medication. It is important not to feel afraid or that you will be insulting by asking questions.

What to Tell the Doctor During a Visit:

  • All prescription and non-prescription medications or dietary supplements
  • Medical history
  • Any specific genetic abnormalities
  • Any family history of developmental disability or mental illness
  • If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant
  • Any allergies
  • Any bad reactions to medications in the past
  • Any positive responses to medications in the past
  • Your consumption of alcohol or caffeinated beverages, and use of any tobacco or recreational drugs

Some Questions to Ask the Physician about Medications

  • What is the name(s) of the medication?
  • What are you treating with the medication?
  • What should I expect from the medication?
  • How, when and for how long should I take the medication?
  • What side effects can occur and which ones should I inform you about?
  • Are there any interactions with other medications, food or beverages that I should be aware of?
  • Other than medication, what else can I do to help manage the condition, symptoms or behaviors?
  • Do you have any written information about the medication?
  • When should I follow up with you regarding my response to the medication?
  • How long before I will know if this medication is helping?
  • Should I collect information for any specific symptoms or behaviors?

Be sure to ask your pharmacy to provide you with additional information about your medications to further explain what your physician has already told you. It is important to have all of your medications filled at the same pharmacy and let the pharmacist know of any other medications or supplements that you may be taking. If you ask, some pharmacies can fill your medications in special containers that will help remind you when to take them and others that can organize your medications based on the time when you take them.

Important Things to Remember

  • Keep medications in their original container. If you need to "set up" your medications ahead of time, make sure that the medication container is properly labeled.
  • Remember that some medications can cause you to become sleepy or confused; don't drive or perform other tasks that require alertness while taking these medications.
  • Never mix medications together in one bottle.
  • Always read the label before taking your medications and never damage or write on the label.
  • Don't break or crush medications without first asking your pharmacist or physician if it is alright.
  • Never stop taking your medication without first consulting with the physician even if you are feeling better or think it is not working.
  • Always discard expired or discontinued medications.
  • Keep the poison control number handy in case someone else should take your medication or you should forget how much you took.
  • Set up a drug calendar or Medication Administration Record to track when you take the medications.
  • If you experience side effects contact your doctor or pharmacist; don't stop your medications without first consulting with your physician.

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