Drugs always come with risks. It doesn’t matter if it’s an over the counter medication or a prescription. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks. And sometimes they don’t.
But here’s the thing. Seniors face even steeper risks. After all, most seniors are taking multiple drugs. Which means your chances of experiencing serious side effects are much higher.
Plus your body doesn’t always react in the same way as someone younger.
That’s why it’s important to get into the habit of asking questions when your doctor decides you should start taking a drug. Because while doctors are smart and educated, they’re not perfect.
They can easily be seeing upwards of 1,000 patients a year, so it’s nearly impossible to practice personalized medicine. And let’s face it; nobody will take better care of you than you will.
Ask your doc these prescription drug questions
Following are four questions you should ask your doc every single time he writes you a prescription.
Question: Is this drug necessary?
It may seem strange to ask if the drug your doctor is prescribing is necessary. After all why would be recommend it if it wasn’t?
But it’s actually the MOST important question to ask for a number of reasons.
Doctors, especially those who practice straight mainstream medicine, are typically laser focused on curing a disease. That means they can forget that what they’re really doing is treating a person.
In some cases, you may be able to tackle your complaint without resorting to taking a drug. Many minor infections, for example, may not require an antibiotic. Or you can use diet and exercise to lower slightly elevated blood sugar or LDL cholesterol.
For seniors especially, treating certain diseases aggressively might not make sense. For example prostate cancer, which is often very slow growing, might be something that can be treated with intravenous vitamin C and other nutrients.
So don’t hesitate to slow your doctor’s roll down by asking him if you REALLY need the prescription. As surprising as it seems, the answer may be no.
Question: Should seniors take this drug?
All drugs aren’t considered safe for seniors. In fact, there are literally dozens of medications that may not be safe for folks over 65.
These drugs come with some major side effects that often far outweigh any potential benefits for older folks. They include certain alpha blockers, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, NSAID pain relievers and more.
Some popular drugs on the list include…
- Lanoxin (digoxin)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Ambien (zolpidem)
- Lunesta (eszopiclone)
The American Geriatrics Society produces a list of drugs that may be inappropriate for anyone over 65. You can view the complete list here.
Asking your doctor to double check if a drug is approved for seniors isn’t just a good idea. In some cases, it could save your life.
Question: Could I take a lower dose?
Once again, your doctor’s laser focus on conquering a disease might make him miss the obvious. Drugs often are available in different dosages, and a lower dose could fix your problem.
If you’re a senior, this question is especially important. As we age, we become more susceptible to medications. Which means that a lower dose will often be just as effective, while a higher dose could pose extra side effect dangers.
For example, a higher dose of a prescription diabetes medication could easily drive a senior’s blood sugar level dangerously low.
Never hesitate to ask your doc about trying a lower dosage first. If necessary, you can always increase it later.
Question: Do I still need to take this?
Once you’re taking a drug the questions shouldn’t stop. Situations, and health status, are changing all the time. And this can mean a drug you once needed is no longer necessary.
I call it de-prescribing, and far too few doctors do it. So you need to take matters into your own hands.
Never assume your doctor will automatically take you off a medicine once you no longer need it. Most doctors are seeing far too many patients to track their status adequately.
Every time you see your doctor, bring a list of your medications and check to see that it’s still appropriate for you to be taking them. Perhaps an issue you were taking one for has resolved. Or maybe one isn’t working any longer so there’s no need to take it.
And once again, if you’re a senior you might have a special circumstance. A drug that was appropriate when you were younger might not be anymore.
For example if you’re over 70 and still on a cholesterol lowering statin it might be time to get off of it. Statins can cause some serious side effects, but there’s no real evidence they reduce heart issues in older folks.
Mainstream medicine treats everyone the same. But you’re an individual. So be sure to ask your doctor these four important questions every time he writes you a prescription.