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Agencies offer seniors advice about prescription drugs

December 6, 2009
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

As people age, prescription drugs can literally mean the difference between life and death.

To help older adults and their caregivers make the best decisions they can regarding prescription drugs, the Fulton County Office for Aging has a brochure available for people titled "Prescription Drug Options for Older Adults: Managing Your Medicines."

The OFA partnered with the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, to make the brochure available.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Prescription drug bottles are lined up near Church?Street in?Gloversville on?Thursday. In the background is the Senior Citizens Service Center of Gloversville & Fulton?County.

"Older persons today take a myriad of medications, prescribed by many different doctors, for various reasons," Andrea Fettinger, director of the Fulton County OFA, said in a news release. "Families and caregivers need to be aware of the assistance available to them and their loved ones to help manage these medications and to help guide them in handling the costs therein"

In the U.S., 75 percent of people over age 45 take prescription drugs, with an average of four medications each day. By 2010, the annual per person spending on drugs for older adults is projected to reach $2,810 a year, a 133 percent increase over spending in 2000, the release said.

According to the brochure, as people age, they are more likely to need medicines. Studies show that the more medicines people take, the more likely they are to take a medicine they may not need. That means it is important people understand what is being prescribed to them.

Montgomery County Office for Aging Interim Director Kimberly Denis said the agency recently made a medicine management packet available for seniors. The plastic envelope contained cards for people to write information about their prescription drugs on. It also was large enough to hold other medical records, she said.

The envelope had a magnet attached so it could be kept somewhere out in the open, such as on a refrigerator. If a medical emergency hit, the information would be at hand, she said

According to the brochure, seniors need to keep good track of all the medicines they are taking. This also will help reduce the risk of harmful drug interactions.

Some of the information that should be kept in a medicine record includes:

Name of the medication.

What it is being taken to treat.

Name of doctor who prescribed it.

How and when to take the medication.

How much to take or the recommended dosage.

The color and shape of the medicine.

Any side effects or warnings.

It is important for seniors to get into the habit of asking their doctors questions each time they receive a new prescription, the brochure said.

Questions people might want to ask their doctor include:

Why do I take this prescription?

How do I take this medicine?

What are its side effects?

What should I do if they occur?

Ultimately, the brochure said, the best way for people to keep up with the medicines they are taking is to keep the medicines and records within easy reach. The most important aspect of any drug routine is that it is manageable.

Paying the price

Of course, if seniors cannot afford the prescriptions they need, then it is not manageable.

Catherine Mueller, the executive director of the Senior Citizens Service Center of Gloversville & Fulton County, said the center frequently has visitors who discuss how seniors can manage their medicines and reduce their costs.

In addition to considering what changes to Medicare mean for their prescription drugs and co-pays, independent insurance providers come and discuss what their company has to offer.

In order for people to get the best value for their medicines, the brochure said, they have options including:

Mueller said if people need a medicine but they cannot afford it, the senior center will try and help them.

While they do not have a fund to pay for medications, she said, there are other alternatives.

For instance, if a senior feels like they have to chose between getting their medicine or buying food, they may be able to get help from the center's food pantry.

According to the brochure, some Web sites that offer ideas on paying for medicines include:

For more information, copies of the brochure are available at every Fulton County OFA nutrition meal site, and at its office at 19 N. William St. in Johnstown.



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