As we age, we’re more likely to have illnesses. There’s a variety of reasons for this; you’ve lived longer, so you’ve had a longer time to develop chronic illness, so in one way it comes down to probability. Our bodies processes begin to change as well, and our immune systems and other anti-illness functions begin to deteriorate; the health of our ligaments, bones and other structures will also degrade. The result of all of this is a lot of medication; persons over 65 have on average more than twice as many drugs dispensed to them as the national average. This being the case, it’s important to consider the implications of prescription drug use with seniors.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you should always be a partner in your healthcare; if medications have unwanted side effects, you should discuss these implications with your doctor. Healthcare is about quality of life, so if your pain medication leaves you so woozy you can’t leave your bed, it’s probably best to look into alternatives. Whenever you’re unsure of what a medication does, what it’s side effects are, and how it can affect you in the long-term, seek advice from your pharmacist or doctor.

Contraindications are conditions under which a medicine should not be taken. Absolute contraindications mean that when taken under a given circumstance, the medication can create life threatening conditions, whereas relative contraindications mean caution should be used, and a different drug may be preferred if it’s a viable alternative. Taking a medication with another can be an absolute contraindication; some medications can be lethal when taken together. That’s why it’s important to always tell your doctor and pharmacist what medications you are on, as well as any symptoms you’ve had so that they can adjust the drug and dosage accordingly. Always follow your doctor or pharmacist guidance on how to take medication. If you find yourself having a hard time remembering when to take medication, consider a pill planner or a medication scheduling app.

In light of the opioid crisis, it’s worth mentioning that some medications are extremely addictive, especially in the opioid/painkiller class. Should you feel like you can’t go without the medication, find you are craving it outside of your schedule, or begin taking the drug when you shouldn’t, talk to your doctor. There are practical solutions to addiction, and the earlier you report your health problem, the better the treatment options are. You should never feel ashamed about consulting a health practitioner, or speaking to your family, about feelings of addiction; this is a natural risk of these drugs and not a commentary on your goodness or willpower.

If you’ve begun to develop memory problems, and you’re not confident in your ability to take your medications on time or have any other difficulties with activities of daily living, there is help. Highly specialized home care professionals are able to help you no matter what your ailment is; you can continue to live a life of dignity and happiness in your own home.