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October 8, 2011

Looking Back: Health maintenance takes lots of organization as we get older

Daily Star

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Years ago, when I visited many an elderly person, I would see little bottles all lined up like soldiers. There they were, sitting on the kitchen counter, on the kitchen table or lined up neatly on the window sill. Upon a closer look, the labels all told me that they were prescriptions, supplements and over-the-counter products to help have a better life. "Why so many?" I thought.

Now I know: Those little bottles are lined up on our table and on our kitchen shelf that is supposedly for cute little doodads. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

There seems to be a pill for every and any thing. Every visit to the doctor's office usually ends up with another prescription. Nowadays the pharmaceutical companies cleverly put two or more into one tablet. So we now can have more but it all looks like less. Hum?

Dosages can change and there are generic brands or over-the-counter items to deal with and all with various do's and don'ts neatly printed in tiny fonts that we oldsters have to magnify to read (if we can). Some of the little square colorful stick-on "warning" tabs on the prescription bottles overlap, for there is no more room for them on the little containers. With the many warnings and directives that are extremely important, we keep a magnifying glass handy to make sure we read and follow directions.

After years of aging, along with medical science trying to make life more comfortable, I find a closet full of little bottles. (We just might use it once more. Why throw it out and have to turn around and buy it again?) The problem is: As the years go by, the accumulation has increased to the point of needing another closet and so one of the kitchen cabinets was relinquished.

My thinking is not the best when it comes to understanding the ever-changing drug industry. That's where pharmacists come in handy, for they are very knowledgeable and are ready to answer all questions. I personally have experienced this and encourage all to make sure they do ask about and understand all their concerns.

Personal research is handy on the computer, with Google. Many times there are decisions to make as to which drug you personally want to take. There might be alternatives or warnings of side effects for you to be aware of.

Dates are important: Sell by or use before. How long can you store a medication? One medical person advised me that it's usually two years. Always ask to make sure.

Now I can empty all the boxes of out-dated medicine bottles that are stacked up in the bathroom closet. It will be nice to have more room for other "stuff."

There is so much to know and decide on: The usual chalky-pressed pills, caplets, coated ones or capsules etc. Which works the best and when to take what?

With the onslaught of old age, I decided to get a head start on all the medicine "could-be's" with pad and pencil stationed on the dining area table. All went well as I jotted down the time to take and what to take until the lists became clutter.

We had to get more organized so we relegated only the current prescriptions to a handy drawer within reaching distance of where we ate. Stick-on notes gave us reminders until we could memorize the regimen. All old and outdated meds are thrown out. Extra health products that are occasionally used or "as needed" are the items closeted.

Doctors with all their medical assistants are very busy people. I try to be helpful by writing down a list of my questions to ask and list all the current medications I take. I make notes as the doctor explains what I should know and do. Many a time my hearing is not the best and I must ask him or her to repeat what is said or to explain what a certain medical term means.

The medical team appreciates all cooperation and especially so as to our interest in understanding our problems.

We all work together ... a team effort ... to accomplish the best health maintenance that's possible.

"Good health to you," ("Fare ye well," King James Bible), Acts 15:29c.

Elaine W. Kniskern is a 78-year-old resident of Schenevus and a grandmother of five. She can reached at 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at