Medications are supposed to help us, right? Whether we’re trying to get over a bug or manage a chronic condition, there are thousands of medications out there that can help us do so.

But what happens when those medications work to do more harm than good? Medication problems affect all ages, but seniors in particular. In fact, medication problems are a leading cause of death for individuals over the age of 65. They can cause dizziness, falls, vomiting, even death. But how? Why? How can you protect yourself and your loved one when starting a new medication?

Here are three questions to ask your doctor when starting a new medication:

1. What is this medication for?

You go to the doctor with a problem or maybe just for a routine exam and they subscribe a new medication for you. Don’t just nod along, take the prescription and be on your way—stand up for your health and ask questions!

Asking what the medication is for may seem silly, but it’s really a basic question that you should know, as isn’t always so straight-forward. Maybe you went into the doctor with cold symptoms and they noticed you had high blood pressure so they prescribed a medication for that. It’s easy to get confused on what exactly the prescription is for and what it will do. How will it lower your blood pressure? Be sure you ask these questions!

2. How should I take this medication?

Be sure to ask this of your doctor, before you even pick up the prescription. Is it temporary? Will you be taking it long-term? What type of medication is it (oral, injection, etc.)? Do you need to take it at the same time each day? With food? On an empty stomach?

Some medications have very specific dosage instructions and you want to be clear what they are before you start taking them.

For older adults, who may be taking numerous medications, keeping track of what to take and in particular the HOW of taking it, can get confusing. And when the HOW means the difference between a healthy reaction and an adverse one, keeping the details clear from the beginning becomes really important.

3. Can this medication interfere with other medications that I’m taking? What are the side effects?

You’ve heard the medication commercials - the ones where they go on, somewhat endlessly about the side effects of a particular drug. That’s because the side effects are important to know. In particular, which side effects are normal and which are cause for concern. Ask your doctor about the differences between these two. If it’s normal for the medication to make you thirstier, then you can be on the look-out for it. If it’s NOT normal for the medication to cause dizziness, you’ll know to call the doctor right away if you experience it.

Be sure to ask how those side effects or the medication in general may or may not interfere with others that you are taking. Bring a list with you of other medications you take. Note their name, dosage and other details that may be relevant.

Don’t forget about the over-the-counter drugs! From aspirin to allergy meds, these may cause adverse reactions to new medications or conditions.

Need help keeping it all straight? Tabitha’s health records book gives you a place to keep track of medications, doctor appointments, immunizations and more! This easy-to-use and easy-to-find booklet is the perfect resource for you to bring to the doctor and save for reference. Email us today and we’ll mail you a free health records book.