Managing Your Medicine

Some drugs can have side effects like dizziness or drowsiness, which may increase your risk of falling. Sometimes one medicine can interact with another to cause these side effects. Since many older adults take four or more medications, it is important to ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to review all of them.

Reviewing your Medications

Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your prescription and non-prescription medications to see if they put you at a higher risk of falling. Non-prescription medications include: over- the-counter and behind-the-counter drugs that do not require a prescription, herbal or home remedies, and supplements such
as vitamins.

What You Can Do:

  • Put all your medications in a bag and bring them to your doctor or pharmacist to review, and
  • Keep a medication list (Español, 中文) to help keep track of your medicines and side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review the list.
Your pharmacist can alert your doctor to any drugs you take that may increase your risk of falling and your doctor may change your prescriptions to reduce that risk.

Talking to Your Doctor

Each time you receive a new prescription, tell your doctor if you have fallen or have trouble with balance and coordination and ask her/him these questions:
  • What is the name of the medicine and what am I taking
    it for?
  • How should I take it? (How often? With or without food? In the morning, mid-day or at night?)
  • How long should I take it? When should I stop taking it?
  • If I forget to take it, what should I do?
  • What side effects might I expect? What should I do if they occur?
  • Does this medicine alone, or when taken with other medicines, increase my risk of falling?
  • Is this drug available as a generic? Are there any alternatives to taking
    this drug?
  • Is there any written information about this medication that I can take with me?

Download and print Talk to Your Doctor to bring with you to your next appointment.

Look Out for Side Effects

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have side effects. Some medicines used to treat common conditions can have side effects that increase your risk of falling or increase your risk of getting hurt if you fall.

    Talk to your doctor of pharmacist if you have any of these side effects:
    - Dizziness or fainting
    - Drowsiness
    - Weakness in the legs or arms
    - Imbalance or lack of coordination
    - Confusion
    - Blurred vision
    - Increased bruising (you may be at risk for increased bleeding if you fall)

Things You Can Do to Take Your Medicine Safely

  • DO update your medication list whenever a new medication is added or when your doctor tells you to no longer take a medication.
  • DO keep a current copy of your medication list card in a visible place in your home and one in your wallet or pocketbook.
  • DO use a pill box organizer for your medications. Ask your pharmacist, caregiver or family member to help you fill it regularly.
  • DO review your medication list with your doctor or nurse at every visit or with your pharmacist whenever you are prescribed or add a new medicine (prescription or non-prescription).
  • DO always tell your health care provider about past problems you have had with medications, such as dizziness, weakness in the legs, drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, imbalance, increased bleeding, irregular heartbeat or changes in blood pressure. Call your health care provider right away if you have any problems with your medications.
  • DO take medicine in the exact amount and on the same schedule prescribed by your doctor. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the right way to take any medicine before you start to use it. Make sure you can read and understand the medicine name and the directions on the container. Speak with your pharmacist if any of the information is not clear.
  • DO use the same pharmacist or same pharmacy chain for filling your prescriptions. Using one pharmacist will help keep track of medicines from different doctors and any potential interactions between your medicines. Your pharmacist can also talk with your doctors about your medicines.

Things You Should Remember Not to Do:

  • DO NOT stop taking a prescription medication unless your doctor says it's okay—even if you are feeling better. If you are worried that the medication might be doing more harm than good, talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to change the prescription to one that works just as well.
  • DO NOT take more or less than the prescribed amount of any medicine.
  • DO NOT take medications prescribed for another person or give yours to anyone else.
  • DO NOT mix alcohol and medicine. Some medicines may not work well or may make you sick if taken with alcohol. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have a question.

More Resources:

Additional Resources