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Take Medications Safely

An older man pours a pill from a prescription bottle into his hand.


According to researchers, about three out of every five older adults take their prescriptions improperly. Approximately 140,000 older Americans die each year as a result of taking medications improperly. Listen closely when your health care professional prescribes a medication for you, and always follow your doctor's directions when taking your medicine.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about directions you aren’t sure about, such as “take with food,” “on an empty stomach,” “once/twice/three times/four times daily,” and “as needed.”
  • When you receive your prescription medications, check the label to make sure that the drug name, dosage, and directions are the same as what your doctor told you.
  • Do not take prescription medications that were not prescribed for you by one of your health care providers.
  • Do not share your prescription medicines or take someone else’s medications. Different people can react differently to the same drug. In some cases, sharing your medication may also be against the law.
  • If you think you are experiencing side effects from a medication (particularly after starting the medicine or increasing the dose), talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
  • Don’t stop taking your prescription medication, skip doses, or otherwise change the amount of the medicine you take without talking to your health care provider (even if you feel better or think the medication isn’t working).
  • If you cannot afford your prescribed medications, ask your health care provider or pharmacist if there is a less expensive alternative.
  • If you cannot read your medication label or have trouble opening the container it is in, ask your pharmacist about alternative labels and packaging.
  • Read the information that your pharmacist includes with your medicine. If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain.
  • If you have trouble sticking to your medication schedule, ask your doctor or pharmacist about ideas and products to help, such as linking medicines with daily routines, using a pill organizer, computer or smart phone reminders, and more.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or instruction from a health care professional. Always take medication as prescribed or according to manufacturer's instructions. Consult with your doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider before changing your medication habits.