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Visiting Pharmacists Help Seniors Manage Medication Use

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DURHAM, N.C. — For many people, it is tough to remember to take a vitamin each day.For those who take five, 10 or more medications each day, remembering to do so can be overwhelming.

It is a big problem among the elderly, who tend to take multiple medications. Adverse drug reactions are dangerous for the patient and expensive to treat.

William Russell and others at the West Durham Senior Center take advantage of visits from Duke pharmacists.

Pharmacist Chad Riggs said the goal of the Duke program is to help seniors understand what each drug does and how they interact.

"It has to be a daunting task," Riggs said. "There's so many medications, that if you miss just one dose, it can cause some very serious health problems. We see it at Duke every day."

Studies show programs like this help cut adverse drug reactions by 78 percent.

"That's our whole goal -- to use the medications, get the benefit and minimize the risk," Riggs said.

For those who do not have access to a program like this, a pharmacist can answer questions.

"Your pharmacist is not there just to put the pills in the bottle. That is a pool of knowledge that can be tapped very easily," Riggs said.

It only takes a few minutes to get the answers they need. Russell takes eight different medications each day and said the information received from Riggs provides peace of mind.

"It extends my life. That's what I figure," Russell said.

Riggs said one of the biggest problems is not remembering to take medications or taking an extra dose by mistake.Those types of mistakes can be avoided by using a pill box that has the days of the week labeled on it.

Another common mistake is taking two drugs that contain the same type of medicine and not knowing it. That is another important reason to talk with a pharmacist.


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