Keep tabs on your medication this Christmas
Christmas can be a busy time of the year for most families. While squeezing in those last-minute jobs, it is important not to forget our daily routines and, importantly, remember to take your medication.
This was underscored recently by Dr Mario Evon Guthrie during a presentation for the National Health Fund’s (NHF) ‘Stay Ahead And Take Your Meds’ Live.
He said poor medication adherence increases the risk of additional sickness, which then jeopardises persons’ chances of optimal health, and causes a decrease in national economic productivity.
“Non-adherence with medication regimens may result in increased use of medical resources, such as physician visits, laboratory tests, unnecessary additional treatments, emergency department and hospital visits,” Dr Guthrie said.
He said that if you do forget to take your medication, it is best to continue with your dosage as prescribed and seek advice from your prescribing doctor or an alternative doctor as soon as possible.
“Depending on what medication you are taking and how many doses you missed, you may need increased subsequent doses, blood tests, or no action at all. Do not double up on your next dose unless you have been advised to do so by your doctor. This is important, as some drugs are toxic if you take more than your prescribed dose,” Dr Guthrie said.
“If you are going away for the holidays, remember to take enough medications to last you while you are away. It may be helpful to take the medication packaging with your prescription details with you, or a list of your medications and the doses, in case you do require more. This way, the doctor will know exactly which medications you are taking and the dose to prescribe,” he added.
According to the National Health Fund, based on the Jamaican Health and Lifestyle Survey (2017), of those who reported that they were on medication for their chronic illness, only 40 per cent reported they always took their medication.
Approximately 50 per cent of all respondents indicated at the time of the survey that they forgot to take their medication in the past two weeks. Further, among those persons age 25 to 44 years old, at least 74.2 per cent forgot their medication in the past two weeks. The majority of the respondents stated that they stopped taking medication because they felt the condition was under control.
In examining age-specific respondents, it is more common among the younger (25-34) age group to stop taking their medications when they felt that their conditions were under control.
All respondents among the 25-34 age group and 46 per cent of those age 35-44 years stopped taking their medication because they believe the condition is under control.
Like most other professions, doctors take time off over Christmas and New Year too. So, it is important to find out from your doctor if they will be practising over the holidays. It is also important to check the days and times that the doctors’ offices are open, as these may change over the holiday period. Your pharmacy may also change its opening hours over the holiday period.
Most medications need to be stored in cool conditions, away from heat and direct sunlight. The storage requirements of most medications are written on their packaging, or on the enclosed information leaflet . Alternatively, ask your pharmacist for advice. If your medication needs to be kept cool, refrigerated bags are a great idea while travelling.
If you take regular medications, make sure you have enough to last you over the holiday period. If not, see your doctor earlier rather than later for a new or repeat prescription. For most drugs, these are valid for 12 months from the date of issue.
Generally, the post-holiday period is very busy and doctor appointments can be scarce. If you require an appointment with your doctor in the post-holiday period for renewing prescriptions or other reasons, it is best to book this appointment early, before the festive season, to ensure one is available for you.
Strategies to help include:
• Take your medication at the same time every day.
• Link taking your medication with another activity in your day. For example, take your medication before or after breakfast, before or after brushing your teeth, etc.
• Store your medications where they are easily visible, although out of the reach of children.
• Set reminders on your mobile phone.
• Include taking your medication on your to-do list for the day.
• Make use of pillboxes which have medications grouped into days and times. That way, you will know if you have missed a dose.
• Write a reminder note and stick it on the back of the bathroom, front door or another place where you are likely to see it.