Heath and Aging

Safe Use of Medicines

Neighbors Gail and Alice talk about medicine safety

Alice: I'm glad to see you up and around, Gail. Your heart attack gave us all a scare.

Gail: Me too, Alice. After I got out of the hospital, it was hard to keep track of all my medicines. Can you believe it? I take eight different pills every day! Some with breakfast, some at dinner, two at bedtime.

Alice: How do you keep track of all those pills?

Gail: First off—I learned about my medicines. I talked to my doctor—asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know what I was taking and why. Then I wrote down all the drug names, when I should take them, and how much I need to take.

I keep one list taped to my kitchen cabinet and another in my purse. My medicine list comes in handy when I see the doctor and I want to ask about a certain pill.

Alice: What a good idea. James and I need to make a list too!

Gail: I have another tip. Buy a plastic pillbox. My husband helps me fill a week's worth of pills at a time. I also leave notes on the fridge and by our bed that say, "Take your pills today!"

Alice: I'm going to try your medicine tips. I bet they will work for us. Gail, you sure aren't taking any chances with your health.

Gail: Well—I take my pills just like the doctor says— that way I feel in charge of my good health.

Follow Gail's tips to stay on track with your medicines

  • Keep a list of all your medicines in a safe place.
  • Bring your list when you talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Use a pillbox.
  • Put notes around the house to remind you to take your medicines each day.
  • Talk to your doctor about all the medicines, remedies, and vitamins you use. Include any medicines you buy without a prescription. These are called OTC (over-the-counter) medicines. OTC drugs include things like cough syrups for colds and antacids for upset stomachs.

Write down:

  • the drug name, the doctor who prescribed it, and how much you take
  • the name and amount of each remedy, vitamin, and OTC drug you take
  • the time of day you take each medicine

Older adults use more medicines than people in other age groups

You may be surprised to learn that people like Gail and Alice who are over 65 years old tend to take more medicines than any other age group. Because older adults may have a number of diseases or health problems at the same time, it is common for them to take many different kinds of drugs.

Publication Date: July 2013
Page Last Updated: July 22, 2016