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Medication: Why does Mom need so many pills?

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If someone you care for is 65 or older, you probably manage from two to seven or more medications every day. You may feel like your whole day revolves around medication planning for your relative.

Of the 1.7 billion prescriptions written each year, more than a third are for older adults. Different medicines work in different ways. Medicines can cure illness, relieve symptoms, help the body work better, slow the progress of a disease or prevent illness. Sometimes you can tell right away that a medicine is helping. Other times improvement is more gradual. For instance, an infection can feel better after a day or two of antibiotics. On the other hand, it may take several months of taking a medication to see an improvement in blood cholesterol levels.

Always be sure that prescription medications are taken for as long as the doctor recommends — even if your relative feels better or doesn't notice any improvement right away.

Some diseases like glaucoma and high blood pressure have few symptoms but medications keep these diseases from getting worse. Be sure your relative keeps taking the medicine even if symptoms improve.

A medication regimen can be most effective when you, your loved one, the doctor and pharmacist all work together as a team. Be sure to alert the doctor or pharmacist if the person for whom you are caring has any of the following difficulties:

There may be simple solutions to these issues, such as the use of a "days-ofthe-week" pillbox as a daily reminder, installation of a "medication dispenser" that uses a verbal reminder, or receiving medicine in liquid rather than pill form to help with swallowing.

If new symptoms develop while your relative is taking a medication, contact the doctor immediately. A new symptom could be a side effect of the medicine. Excessive drowsiness, confusion, insomnia, loss of appetite, incontinence and other symptoms often blamed on "getting old" may actually be the result of negative interaction among multiple medications or other medication related problem.