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Tracking Your Medications

Image of pills and pill bottle

Why tracking your meds could make all the difference in the care you receive

Did you know that over 30 million Americans take five or more prescription medications? Do you know the names of your meds? If you couldn’t speak for yourself, could your spouse or children tell an EMT or medical professional what you need?

In 10 years, the percentage of people over 60 who take five or more meds – also known as polypharmacy – has jumped from 22% to 37%. And with the aging of the baby boom generation, those numbers are just going to increase.

As we grow older, the number and types of medications we take change frequently, and with each added drug, the risk of interaction increases

Many times a new symptom could be a side effect of your medication. Sometimes the side effects are expected, sometimes they aren’t, and sometimes the side effects are caused by drug interactions or taking too much medication. New symptoms could be caused by new meds or a combination of meds, vitamins and food, and the last thing you want is a trip to the ER!

If your loved one ended up in the ER because of a side effect or drug interaction, would you be able to tell what medications they are taking and when? Knowing this information could mean the difference in how emergency personnel proceed and how quickly care is administered.

An easy way to be prepared is to keep the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences’ medication tracking card updated and in your wallet. All you do is write down the name of your med, why you are taking it, the dose, and when you take it. You can also include your vaccinations – everything from shingles to tetanus, flu and pneumonia. Now that vaccinations are more easily available through your local pharmacy, you may not know where or when you had your last shot, so it’s important to keep track of all of that. And Medicare will help pay for vaccinations if you’re over 65. You don’t want to miss out!

It’s also important to know what your kids are taking or your parents or your spouse. So, with their permission, having a card with their medication info written down is a good idea, too. In emergency situations, it may be up to the family to inform the emergency responders and the hospital about medications. Keep in mind that an emergency medical situation is very stressful, so being prepared helps take care of your loved one more efficiently and ensures that adverse reactions are limited.

Download and print out one of the med tracking cards here, or pick up a card at the KEZW/KOSI studios at 4700 S. Syracuse St., Suite 1050, Denver, CO 80237. The cards are also available through some local pharmacies, as well as Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences-hosted health fairs and clinics.​​​