Do you understand the information you receive from your pharmacy? How about from the doctor’s office?

Person Made of Tablets and CapsulesIf you go to a Vietnamese restaurant and the menu has items that you are not familiar with, what do you do? Do you just point at the menu and say “I want that!” Most likely not. Most of us will ask the server to explain what it is, right? Well, this should be the same approach you have when you are at your pharmacy or doctor’s office. Sometimes pharmacists and doctors fall into this “jargon trap” and loosely use terms that are common in health profession land, but can be confusing to people who are not in the healthcare field. So just ask us for clarification, if you do not understand what we just told you about your medications or your health. That’s part of our job.

Let’s talk pharmacy. If you are taking a new medication or are currently on any medications, do you know what each of them are used for? Do you know if you are supposed to take it with food or without food? How about the time of day to take it? The answers to these questions should be “Yes!” You have to be in charge of your health. In the past, I have had patients come to the pharmacy to tell me that they want to refill the little yellow tablets or the little oval green tablets. They do not know the name of the medication. And when I ask what they are taking it for to confirm that I have the right yellow or green tablet, sometimes the patient doesn’t even know why they’re taking it. This is a scary thought, because it’s dangerous to not be informed about the medications you’re putting into your body. You, as the patient, are safer when you know what medications you are taking and for what purpose you are taking them. So, read the material that comes along with the medication to educate yourself on why you are taking your medication. You have the option of asking your pharmacist as well. In some states, a pharmacist consultation is not a requirement for new prescriptions. Here in California, it is a requirement for pharmacists to counsel a patient on new medications. So ask us what your medications are used for so that you will be armed with this valuable piece of information.

At the doctor’s office, do you ask how long you’re supposed to take a medication? I would hope you’d like to know whether you have to take a medication for the rest of your life or not! For some health conditions, you can ask your doctor, “If I start exercising regularly and changing my diet, is there a possibility that I may not need to take this medication anymore?” It doesn’t hurt to ask questions when it concerns your health. So feel free to ask questions at your doctor’s appointments as well. It is best to write these questions down so that when you go to be seen, you can ask questions from your list. I always have a short list of questions when I go to my doctor’s office. Do I remember to ask all of the time? Nope! I am forgetful. So the only way that I remember to ask is if I get to my doctor’s office early and take out my list of questions so that I have a physical reminder to ask. Otherwise my list gets lost in purse land. So, if you are as forgetful as I am, keep your list in your hand.

Older people have the toughest time with managing their health, especially if they have several health issues. They may have medications to be taken with or without food, appointments for different doctors and food restrictions. All of this can be a daunting task for them. Our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles may need our help in reading the directions on prescription bottles, because they may have vision problems. They may need an extra pair of ears at the doctor’s office because they may not be able to hear well anymore or they may forget what they heard, which would make them miss important information about their healthcare. The reading materials that the doctor’s office or pharmacy gives them may go unread because of vision issues. So help the older people in your lives because you may not know how tough a time they are having with attempting to manage their health.

So when it comes to your health or the health of your loved ones, never be afraid to ask questions. Getting information about your health is your right, and it is our job to provide you that information. Just ask!

~Dr. Dee

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