Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mom Sure Takes A Lot Of Meds

Q: I need to get a handle on all a these medications?
Americans over the age of 65 take lots of medications: the average "healthy" adult takes 9 different drugs. If you are taking care of sick parent or spouse (or sibling), the average can be substantially higher.  Do you ever wonder if the side effects of one drug have caused the need for one of the other drugs? What about side-effects? Drug interactions?  How about this: Do you ever think that your loved one is unnecessarily taking multiple medications for the same condition? At the end of this article I am going to show you a free website that you can use to compare any two medications! My favorite part about this tool is that you don't even have to know how to spell them...it's like Google - when you start typing the name it will try to guess what you are attempting to spell (that saves me everytime).

But first allow me to state the obvious. You know that whenever you are taking your parent or spouse to the doctor you should take all of the medications that they own with you, so the doctor can check. (Don't count on your memory).  Also remember to include over-the-counter meds and even bring supplements and vitamins. Why? I am glad you asked.

The perfect example "why?" is baby aspirin.  Doctors are fond of prescribing 81mg baby aspirin to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack because aspirin is a mild blood thinner.  If your loved one has ever had a stroke then the doctor has probably also prescribed a stronger blood thinner like Warfarin (Coumadin).  But lets look at something else. If you have ever researched anti-oxidants maybe you added supplements like Garlic, or Ginger. Maybe you added a little Ginko Biloba because you read (erroneously) that it is just as effective as Aricept?  Fish Oil for Omega 3 seems to be on everyone's supplement list for heart health too.  But you may not be aware that every one of the supplements I have just mentioned are also blood thinners! So it's best not to take chances and take everything to the doctor.
On average, Americans over the age of 65 have seen more than 28 different doctors in their life () In a Country with every kind of specialty under-the-sun, many seniors are regularly visiting their family doctor, a podiatrist, a neurologist and an internist.  Each one may be prescribing different medication, with significant overlap. This is yet another reason to take every pill bottle you can find with you to your next visit to the MD.
Considering how many doctors and medications you're juggling for your parent or spouse, you may have other reasons to compare drugs and their interactions: Saving money, eliminating unnecessary prescriptions and researching the source of side effects.  However, considering how little "face-time" time you get with the doctor, it is a good idea to do your homework first.  Generally, a doctor will respect a caregiver that has done a little research. At the very least it gives them a chance to show off their superior knowledge. 
Now for that website I promised you in the first paragraph: is my secret website that has wonderful and well written information, and the specific URL that has an amazing free tool that compares medication is: http://healthtools.aarp.org/drug-compare
Please look below for an example of what you will see when you go to the website.  I tested it out by comparing Namenda and Aricept.  Not only did it give me a great description...it also asked AND answered the most frequent questions that people have...
Please feel free to share this great tool with your friends.

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