Part two of three
Last week we started this three-part series on “Older Women” and their use of drugs, including over the counter drugs, and alcohol. The use of drugs -- prescription and over the counter drugs -- by older people, in particularly older women, is much higher than the overall population.
While in Part One we looked at this issue in general terms, Part Two and Three this week and next week will focus on the safe use of drugs and on how to build relationships with health professionals, particularly family physicians and pharmacists.
To use drugs safely, you need:
• Accurate information that is clear and easy to understand;
• Clear communication between you, your doctors, and your pharmacist; and
• Good co-operation between you, your doctors, and your pharmacist.
Many doctors are now working in “medical clinic” groups, and physicians and pharmacists are developing business arrangements with large corporations such as large chain stores. Consequently, it becomes more and more difficult to establish good, healthy one-on-one personal relationships with family physicians and pharmacists, so necessary when you are elderly and need those personal one-on-one relationships the most.
So if you are elderly and face some serious health issues, speak to your local health authority and ask them if there are any family physicians who are taking in new patients, and if you have to seek one out in a medical clinic, make arrangements with such a clinic to see the same physician in the group whenever you come in for consultations. Also, do not switch pharmacies. Pick one specific pharmacy and get the know one pharmacist (within the group) you can deal with all the time. Do not take “no” for an answer!
More and more health regions across the world, even in Canada, are starting to recruit specialists whose expertise is to work specifically with the elderly. These specialists are called geriatricians. If you have problems with your family physician, get a referral to one of those specialists, if available in this area. I know that there are a number of local family practitioners that are starting to specialize in this area.
And how do you relate to these so important health professionals, specifically as it relates to drug use?
Older people deserve good family doctors. Good practitioners can make sure that you don't get too many drugs. Good practitioners can make sure that you're treated properly by specialists. Your family physician should believe you, understand you, and explain things to you. He or she should :
• Give you clear information about your health and your drugs.
• Answer clearly any questions you might have. If you have a problem with remembering, make a written list before you go and see your doctor.
• Give you time to ask all the questions you need to ask. If “time” becomes the issue, ask for a double appointment, or make an immediate other appointment, or seek another doctor.
• Offer other suggestions besides drugs to help you with your health problems.
• Prescribe as few drugs as possible to reduce adverse reactions.
• Understand the lives of older people. Your life and your health affect each other. Your doctor should talk to you about your life. They should be willing to talk about their own experiences, too.
And what about your pharmacist ? Like already said, pick one pharmacy you will always deal with. Get to know one pharmacist (or at least one in the group who really gets to know you). Your pharmacist can become your “real friend” in your old age. Find out what he or she believes about issues of life and death. Did you know that some pharmacies have mission statements or statements of philosophy ... My personal pharmacy has one and I really appreciate the content of his mission statement. So, ask if they have one ... If they don't have one, they might only be in the “business” of selling you drugs ... which you do not want.
Pharmacists are very important to your safe drug use because they:
• Keep track of your prescription drugs. And if you use the same one all the time, they should also know about your regular over the counter drugs.
• Can give you professional advice about drugs, especially interactions and side-effects.
• Can suggest similar medications that are cheaper.
• Sometimes can be a true advocate between you and your family doctor or even specialist.
• Can answer any questions you have about drug safety.
However, pharmacists sometimes make mistakes. Always double-check every prescription with him or her. Then you'll both be sure it's the right medication.
John Fryters is a 65-year-old senior who is concerned about issues facing his peer group. Grey Power is intended to allow seniors to retain or even gain more power in their old age -- power they need to live healthy, independent lives for as long as possible.