Columns and Letters

Column: Organization is a crucial part of proper medication-taking

- by Bonny H.J. MacIsaac

    This past summer, my granddaughter had a nasty ear infection and required a couple of prescriptions plus ear drops. One was three times a day, another four, throw the drops into the mix and I was exhausted trying to keep track! I have had the conversation with friends and family a few times recently, that I don't know how some seniors keep up with taking their medications.
    Approximately two thirds of seniors in Canada over the age of 65 have five or more drug prescriptions. Approximately a quarter have 10 prescriptions or more.
    Having elderly patients using multiple medications is far from a new phenomenon. Most of us know a senior in those circumstances, even if the statistic as a whole comes across as surprising.
    For our seniors, this means more than having to remember which medications to take on what day and at what time. Polypharmacy – the simultaneous use of multiple drugs by one patient – brings a whole list of potential adverse drug reactions and safety measures to keep at the forefront of their minds.
    Since it is National Senior Safety Week, from November 6th to 12th, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the importance of safe drug-taking habits. Good health, quality of life, and general well-being can hang in the balance.
    The experts at the Canada Safety Council (CSC) say that organization is a crucial part of proper medication-taking. When prescribing the drug, doctors will also provide instructions on what dose to take, what time of day, how many times per week and any additional information necessary to proper use. It’s absolutely crucial that these instructions be followed to the letter.
    This can be more difficult when multiple drugs enter the equation. Keep a complete, current list of medications you use, along with dosages and schedules. Also make a note as to why you’re taking every specific drug. If you’re not sure or can’t recall, call your doctor’s office and ask for their assistance.
    A useful tool to help keep the chaos at bay is to sort the medications into a weekly plastic pill organizer, available at most pharmacies. By dividing the drugs as necessary on a week-by-week basis, it removes much of the guesswork that comes with being uncertain about having taken the medication on any given day.
    Here are some more useful tips from the CSC:
– Inform your health care professional what kind of medications you’re taking. This includes anything that may have already been prescribed, as well as over-the-counter painkillers, herbal remedies, and vitamins. Your doctor needs to know which drugs you’re currently taking so they can avoid prescribing medication that is known to interact with them.
– It can be difficult to remember every drug you’re using, so keep a current detailed list of these, including your name, information on medical conditions, and previous reactions or allergies.
– Fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy every time. The added familiarity will provide a safety blanket if the staff notices you taking two or more medications that should not be mixed.
– Learn about the drugs you’re taking. Read the information printed on the bottle and do research online as well to be fully informed. If you have questions, your pharmacist will be able to provide answers.
– Never stop taking a prescription earlier than recommended, even if you’re starting to feel better. Always consult with your doctor before ceasing use of any medication.
– Do not share your own prescriptions or take someone else’s prescription.
– Caregivers also have a responsibility to always be fully focussed on the task at hand. If you’ve been tasked with dispensing and administering drugs, ensure that you’re paying attention at all times. Errors can sneak in when vigilance falls by the wayside. Be smart, be alert, and prevent mistakes before they happen.
– Following these simple tips will help keep the risks of serious adverse reactions at a minimum and keep a good quality of life moving forward.
    Thanks to the fine folks at the Canada Safety Council for this valuable advice! Be sure to check out their website at They have a wide range of safety related topics. Something for everyone!
    According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information - In 2018, they reported that approximately 1.9 million Canadian seniors chronically used at least one potentially inappropriate drug in 2016, which is comparable with the 2011 rate. Chronic use is defined as a person who has at least two claims and 180 days’ supply of a drug.
    Potentially inappropriate drugs can increase the risk of adverse effects, such as falls, fractures, and mental impairment, and there are often safer alternatives. Commonly used drug classes such as proton pump inhibitors (used for acid reflux disease and peptic ulcer disease) and benzodiazepines (used for anxiety and insomnia) are among the drugs considered to be potentially inappropriate. It was also noted in their report that women (36.8%) had higher chronic use of potentially inappropriate drugs, compared with men (29.8%).
    A reminder - Remembrance Day brings out the flags, the solemn ceremonies, the heartfelt thanks… and charitable solicitations. According to the Better Business Bureau, donation requests from veterans and military-affiliated charities are always high around Remembrance Day and throughout the holiday season.
    To ensure that your donations go just where you want them to, do a bit of research first. BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips on giving to veterans and military-affiliated organizations:
– Mistaken identity: Watch out for name confusions. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.
– Clear program description: Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If the charity says it is helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counselling), and where it is doing so?
– Telemarketing cautions: Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity’s programs and finances before making a donation decision.
– On-the-spot donation decisions: Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
– Donating used clothing and other goods: Find out how the charity benefits from the collection and resale of used clothing and other in-kind gifts. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter what the contents.
– Check with outside sources before giving: BBB’s offers charity monitoring and other information for donors. You may also want to check the charity listings with the Canada Revenue Agency to see if the charity has a current registration.
    Great advice from the Maritime's Better Business Bureau. Keep up to date with any scams that are happening by logging onto the webpage at: and follow the links.
    My Canada - My Poppy - Whether you chose Canada or were born here, we all get to enjoy values like freedom, democracy, and respect for others. Veterans stood up for those rights, but it’s up to us to uphold them. This Remembrance Day, honour veterans by dedicating a Poppy to someone who embodies the values they fought for. Log onto: and dedicate your digital poppy today!














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