Grey Power 54 — July 17, 2014

John Fryters
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Part three of three


Over the last two weeks we have been talking about older women and the use of drugs, both prescription drugs as well as over the counter drugs.  Last week we looked at the relationships between health professionals, particularly family physicians and pharmacists, and the elderly.

Sometimes I wonder about social media.  However, sometimes I can see the benefit ...   As soon as I completed Part Two of this series, I read the following in one of the postings to my facebook page :


It was approximately 8:30 a.m. on a busy morning when an elderly gentleman in his eighties arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb.  He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9 a.m.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat.  I knew it would take more than an hour before someone would be able to attend to him.  I saw him check his watch anxiously for the time and decided to evaluate his wound since I was not busy with another patient.

On examination, the wound was well healed.  Hence, I talked to one of the doctors to get the supplies to remove his sutures and redress this wound.

We began to engage in a conversation while I was taking care of his wound.  I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment later as he was in such a hurry.  The gentleman told me “no” and said that he needed to go to the nursing home to have breakfast with his wife.

I enquired about her health.  He told me that she had been in the nursing home for a while as she was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.  I probed further and asked if she would be upset if he was slightly late.  He replied that she no longer knew who he was and she had not been able to recognize him since five years ago.  I asked him in surprise, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.”

I had to hold back my tears as he left.  I had goose bumps on my arm, and I thought, “That is the kind of love I want in my life.”

True love is neither physical nor romantic.  True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.

Last week, I suggested that health professionals should understand the lives of older people.  They should be willing talk …  The example above is just one example ...

So what about doctors giving older people prescriptions?  Doctors need your help to prescribe drugs safely. 


• Doctors need information. 

Don’t think anything is too unimportant to mention.  Be honest with your doctor.  You will receive better and safer care if your doctor has all the necessary information.  And if you have lapses in your memory, which happens occasionally with the elderly, write things down before the appointment and/or take an advocate (family or friend) with you.  Try to write down symptoms in order of importance before the appointment.  My wife and I almost always see our family physician together and he has never objected to that.

• Doctors are not perfect. 

Don’t assume your doctor will know or remember everything about you.  Don’t even assume everything is written down on your file. You might have give them the information before.  But it’s always safer to repeat information.

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

Your questions aren’t silly.  They’re important to help your doctor prescribe drugs safely.  It’s OK to interrupt the doctor if you don’t understand what he or she means.

• Ask for extra time with the doctor when you make the appointment. 

Then you can relax and have time for discussion.

• Tell your doctor about all other drugs you take.

Take a list with you of all prescription and over the counter drugs you take. Remind the doctor at every appointment.  Some patients sometimes put all their drugs in a bag and take them to the appointment ... not a bad idea.  This helps prevent confusion.

• Tell your doctor how much alcohol you drink. 

Even if doctors don’t ask about drinking, tell them. Be honest, even if you drink just a small amount.  Drinking any alcohol with other drugs can be dangerous.

• Remind your doctor about any specialists you see, particularly if you see a clinic physician who does not know you. 

Make sure your doctor knows about any drugs prescribed by the specialists, including homeopaths and naturopaths.

• Remind your doctor about any drug reactions you’ve had in the past. 

Do so even if he or she does not ask.  Then your doctor can prevent the same thing from happening again.

• Here are some questions you can ask before accepting a prescription:

-- Is this medication necessary?

-- What kind of drug it it?

-- How do I take the drug?

-- What are the problems with this drug?

• Here are some of your rights as a patient:

-- You have the right to decide which drugs to take.  However, discuss your decision with your doctor if at all possible.

-- You have the right to refuse a prescription.

-- You have the right to know exactly what the drug will do to you.

-- You have the right to change doctors.

-- You have the right to get advice from someone besides your doctor.

-- You have the right to take someone with you to your doctor’s appointments.

And here are some general guidelines you can follow and, if in doubt, please discuss them with your pharmacist:

• Get all your medications, including your over the counter drugs, from the same drugstore.

• Check always to make sure you got the right drugs.

• Don’t remove or change the labels.

• Keep a small book just for drug information.  Many drugs make people confused and forgetful.  It makes sense to write everything down immediately.

• Follow directions carefully.

• Store all drugs away from moisture and heat.

• Make sure you can see any drug you take.  Do not take drugs in the dark.

• Check first before mixing drugs and alcohol.  By the way, beer also contains alcohol.

don’t use old prescriptions.  Get rid of them by bringing them to your pharmacist.  Do not discard in any other way.

• Just before a prescription is finished, make another doctor’s appointment.

• Never borrow or lend prescriptions to anyone no matter if they are friends.

I would like to thank, once again, Action on Women’s Addictions -- Research and Education -- an old but very reliable source on the use of drugs and older women.  I have used their wonderful materials for years in my ongoing addiction work across the world.


John Fryters is a 65-year-old senior who is keen to provide useful and reliable information to his peer group.  You can reach him at

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