Pharmacists to give free medication checkups at mall

October 21, 1992|By Linda Lowe Morris | Linda Lowe Morris,Staff Writer

Seniors often find themselves seeing multiple physicians and receiving multiple prescriptions. Heart specialists, orthopedic specialists, general practitioners, eye doctors and dentists can all end a visit by writing prescriptions for drugs.

Over time the elderly often find their medicine cabinets bulging and their confusion mounting. Worse, they could find themselves taking medications that interact with one another or with other over-the-counter remedies they use. Or they may be be given multiple doses of the same medication which could cause a serious overdose.

To prevent possible serious complications from interacting medications, the state Office on Aging and the Carroll Bureau on Aging have begun to offer seniors the chance to have their medications evaluated by pharmacists under a program called "Medication Management: Seniors Taking Charge".

On Oct. 28 there will be a free medication checkup at Cranberry Mall from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The program -- which is sponsored by the Cranberry Winners seniors group, Cranberry Mall Management and Rite-Aid Pharmacies -- will take place at the former Crayons store next to Tully's Restaurant.

All local seniors age 60 and above are invited to fill a brown paper bag with empty or full bottles of current prescriptions, plus vitamins and over-the-counter medications to be evaluated by Dr. Larry Schultz, a pharmacist at Reisterstown Road Plaza Rite-Aid.

The medications will be checked for correct dosages, interactions with food and other medications, side effects, effectiveness and length of potency.

The Bureau of Aging suggests making reservations for the check-up by calling the bureau at 848-4049, 876-3363 or 875-3342.

Medication management is a serious problem among elders. According to the Maryland Office on Aging, adverse drug reactions are responsible for 30 percent of hospital admissions. And elderly people account for half of all the deaths caused by adverse drug reactions.

"If you went to a doctor in Columbia and you went to another doctor in Baltimore, they might give you the same medication under two different names," Dr. Schultz said. "You would be having an overdose if you took both at the same time."

At one recent medication screening, one 78-year-old man with vascular heart disease, prostate cancer and diabetes was found to be taking more than 15 prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines. Four of his prescriptions were duplications. He was referred to the Veterans Administration Hospital, where physicians drastically cut his medication regimen.

In addition to offering private one-on-one sessions with each senior attending, Dr. Schultz will give an overall presentation to the group on how to manage their own medicines. People can ask questions either as part of the group or alone with the pharmacist.

The last five minutes of a doctor visit are often crucial, Dr. Schultz said. "Half the time the doctor is in a hurry to get to the next person and the patient is in a hurry to leave."

He advises seniors to take a pad of paper and pen with them to the office visit and write out the drug prescribed, along with any directions about how to take it.

Sometimes, he explained, even pharmacists cannot read a doctor's handwriting and have to call the doctor's office to get the prescription deciphered. And if a patient comes to have that prescription filled at night, there can be problems -- especially if the prescription would alleviate the patient's pain and the doctor cannot be reached.

And it is important to write down how to take certain medications.

Directions should be clear. If a medicine is to be taken "before meals," does that mean immediately before or one hour before? If the directions say "three times a day," does that mean around the clock? If the label on the bottle says "as directed" or "as needed," what do these mean?

Medications are not usually tested on the elderly, the Maryland Office on Aging says, so dosages and effects on the patient may not always be predictable. Patients should always tell their physician if they don't feel right after taking a new medication.

People should take a list of current medications to each new office visit. And having a list at home that is known by family members and available to them in an emergency is also advised.

Seniors who live alone should have at least one doctor and one trusted friend who know all their prescription and non-prescription medications.

And Dr. Schultz recommends that people use the same pharmacy for all their prescriptions. Many pharmacies now have programs to evaluate medications every time a new prescription is filled.

Because November is Diabetes Month, Dr. Schultz will also give a short presentation on the early detection signs for diabetes during the medication check-up next week.

The program will include handouts on medications including a personal medication record to fill out. There will also be entertainment and a sing-along.

For more information on the statewide program, call the Maryland Office on Aging at 410-225-1100 (in the Baltimore metropolitan calling area) or 1-800-AGE-DIAL.

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