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.