DEAR ABBY: I have recently seen two letters in your column regarding the use of medicines by older people and the problems that medicines may cause, especially in the elderly.
People should consider themselves "consumers," not "patients," when it comes to health care, particularly when it comes to the use of medications. Many older people believe that "M.D." stands for Minor Deity, and they don't ask questions of their doctors (or pharmacists) when they should!
Asking questions means taking some responsibility for one's own health care. It helps to know what to expect from a medicine. For example, ask:
1. Exactly what is this medication being used for?
2. How will I feel after I start taking it?
3. How will I know if the medicine is working?
4. What are the most common side effects I can expect?
5. Can I do anything to prevent any of these side effects?
6. How long will I have to keep taking this medicine?
7. Will this medicine be very expensive? About how much?
You are doing a major service to older adults and their care-givers by calling attention to this issue, Abby. I hope this letter is helpful to your readers. -- MADELINE FEINBERG, DIRECTOR, ELDER HEALTH PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF PHARMACY
DEAR MS. FEINBERG: Since overmedication can be such a serious problem for senior citizens, I am sure your letter will be of more than passing interest to many. Other valuable tips for using medicines are available, free. Send a stamped (29 cents), self-addressed, business-sized envelope to: Information Officer, School of Pharmacy, 20 N. Pine St., Room 352, Baltimore, Md. 21201.
DEAR ABBY: I am praying that you can give me some guidance. My husband of many years uses credit cards constantly. He has no pension and has never believed in life insurance or having a savings account. Social Security is his only income.
I have learned that he owes approximately $8,000. I believe he pays his monthly dues from each of his credit cards, in turn. I have no idea how many cards he holds, and I have never signed for any of his credit cards.
We each have our own checking accounts at different banks. I am forced to work full-time because of the many times I have had to come to his financial aid. He is now past 80. I am 69. My concern is that in the event that he should die before I do, would I be held responsible for his debts? -- WORRIED IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR WORRIED: Because you are living in a community property state, you are indeed responsible for your husband's debts if he predeceases you. You would be wise to consult an attorney.
Most teen-agers do not know the facts about drugs, AIDS and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It's all in Abby's updated, expanded booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)
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