Many people likely are unaware of a special time on the calendar dedicated specifically to the topic of medication awareness and safety. While many of us take seriously the importance of understanding the medications we take, others who may not have the assistance and support they need to manage their medications safely. Elderly adults in particular may need extra guidance when it comes to navigating a potentially confusing range of daily prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication routines.
Many years ago, one national organization took an official stance on the importance of this issue. In 1982, the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) established the first “Talk About Your Medicines Month” month, recognized annually each October. In 2017, NCPIE revamped its online presence as BeMedWise.org. This month, ElderCare 4 Families recognizes this 39th annual reminder of the importance of medication safety and awareness.
The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 with 250 original members. According to its website, the organization’s members and leadership consists of, “national and international organizations representing physician, pharmacy, nursing, and other healthcare professional groups; pharmaceutical research and manufacturing companies; managed care organizations; and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The objectives of the organization are to increase consumer awareness about medicines and to assist in the development of more useful prescription medicine information.”
In short, NCPIE member organizations develop programs designed to help consumers and their families make educated decisions around healthcare, including the prescription and OTC medications they take. NCPIE content is especially helpful as it provides tangible, actionable tips for safely managing medication and encouraging communications between patients, family members, and healthcare providers.
ElderCare 4 Families serves senior adults and their families throughout the Louisville area and Southern Indiana. We advocate and understand the importance of assisting elderly loved ones with medication management. Many clients find the support they need through our medication management and other non-medical, personal support services. In recognition of October as “Talk About Your Medicines Month”, we’re sharing some helpful guidance from NCPIE in accordance with their 2021 theme, “Understanding Medicine Labels – Making sense of your meds”.
Understand your medication labels
First and foremost, be certain to read through Drug Facts labels on packaging to help you avoid side effects, prevent medication interactions, and more. Of course, labels also instruct you in how to properly take the medicine. If you or a loved one has difficulty reading or understanding medication labels, AudibleRx is a wonderful resource. This audible online platform provides consumer medication information (CMI) in an easy-to-listen format. Take advantage of this free online library – it’s available to everyone!
Take OTC medication seriously
While they may not require a prescription from your doctor, over-the-counter medication can pose threats to your safety and health, as well. This is true particularly when Drug Facts and instructions are not followed carefully. As with prescription medication, always follow the label when taking OTC medicines of any kind. Heed warnings seriously. This includes vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies, etc. The NCPIE recommends learning to understand elements of OTC medicine labels including uses, warnings, and directions. We suggest printing and hanging this handy one-pager where your senior family member can see it.
Understand differences with medications for older adults
As we age, our bodies process medicines differently. Elderly adults often need extra assistance with their unique medication management requirements. NCPIE offers an excellent guide in safe medication management for seniors. If you are a caregiver for a senior loved one, be cautious not to alter the way they take their prescriptions and OTC meds without first consulting their provider.
OTC pain meds and acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
When you or a loved one has cold or flu symptoms, sore muscles, or common arthritis aches and pains, you may reach for an OTC pain reliever such as acetaminophen. Be aware that this drug is a component in 600+ medications, and accidental overdoses due to medication overlap can be dangerous, particularly for your liver. Overuse of OTC ibuprofen (Advil®) also can pose serious risks, as well. Always check labels carefully! Check out Get Relief Responsibly® and learn what to do if you or a loved one is experiencing pain with cold or flu symptoms.
If you are unsure whether an elderly family member or friend needs assistance with medication support, refer to these basic tips and checklists for caregivers. When you’re ready for assistance with medication management and daily personal support for your elderly loved one, ElderCare 4 Families in Louisville, Kentucky is standing by ready to listen and help.