Tips for Seniors on the Safe Use of Acid Reflux Medications

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As a person gets older, she may be faced with more health conditions that she will need to treat on a regular basis. This includes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The increased use of medications and normal bodily changes that can be caused by aging can increase the chances of interactions between medications, or the affects of the medications an elderly person takes on her body. For example, changes in the digestive system of the elderly can affect how fast medicines enter the bloodstream.

The circulatory system may slow down, which can affect how fast drugs get to the liver and kidneys. In addition, the liver and kidneys may work more slowly, affecting the way a drug breaks down and is removed from the body.

If you are a senior citizen and on various medications, you no doubt know the importance of taking medication safely. Sometimes the difficulty arises when the number of medications, and medical conditions they treat, increases. That's a lot to keep organized at times. The tips below are designed to help you.

Among the other medications you may be taking, you may have been prescribed a medication to treat your heartburn (acid reflux). This may be a H2 blocker or a proton pump inhibitor. It's always preferred if changes in lifestyle habits or limiting foods that can cause heartburn will be enough to curb the heartburn. Unfortunately, these methods don't always work. If you've been prescribed a heartburn medication, be sure to ask your doctor if you should take it daily or only as symptoms arise, and for how long you should take it (one week, one month, indefinitely, etc.).

If you decide to take medication for any medical condition, you should know how to take that medication wisely. Up to half of all those who take medications do not take them as directed, which could result from not reading the labels on the prescription or over-the-counter bottles, missing doses, using medication after its expiration date, etc.

Ask questions about any new medications. You can ask either your doctor of pharmacist the following:

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Why am I taking this medication?
  • How long should I take it?
  • How often each day do I take this medication?
  • When should I start to feel better?
  • What side effects can occur with this medication?
  • What should I do if I experience any side effects?
  • Should I take this medication with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Should I avoid alcohol while taking this medication?
  • What should I do if I forget a dose?

Read the label. Some people don't think to read labels on medication bottles or boxes if they asked questions of the pharmacist. It's important to still read the labels because the pharmacist may not mention everything. Check the following on the labels:

  • Pay attention to the warnings. Warnings on prescription labels include "May Cause Drowsiness. Use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery," "Do Not take this drug if you become pregnant," "SHAKE WELL and keep in the refrigerator," "Take with Food!"
  • Check the expiration date. Some medications will have an expiration date on the bottle. You should check for one to make sure your medication isn't expired.
  • Check the directions. Check the dosage of each tablet or capsule, how many times a day you're to take the medication, and if you have enough to take the medication for the number of days your doctor told you to take it. If there are any differences between what your doctor told you and what the medication label says, call your doctor for clarification before you start taking the medication.
If you have any questions after reading the labels, call your doctor or your pharmacist.

Follow your doctor's directions. You should not skip a dose or stop taking your medication before it's gone unless advised by your doctor. It's important to take your medication as directed for the fullest benefit. You also shouldn't take more than the prescribed dosage: more is not better.

Side effects. If you are experiencing a side effect that concerns you, contact your doctor immediately, and he or she will tell you whether or not to discontinue the medication.

Don't take medication in the dark. Prescription bottles are often similar in size, so trying to find the correct one in the dark can be nearly impossible. Since it is too easy to make a mistake in the dark, always flip on a light when taking your medication.

Keep a record of the medications you take. If you take only one medication and one multivitamin, you may not find a need to keep a record of your medications. But if you are like me — with more than one medical condition and several prescription and over-the-counter medications — you should keep a list of them. You will not want to rely on your memory and hope you remember every medication, along with dosages. It's also easier to give the list to a nurse or doctor to make a copy of than to tell them each medication and dose, and wait for them to write it down.

Keep all your doctor appointments. You will also want to keep any appointments you have for blood tests or other tests, such as x-rays. Here are some tips for talking to your doctor about your heartburn.

The FDA advises that we all have a "Medicine Check-up" at least once a year. At this time you go through your medicine cabinet and get rid of all the old or expired medications.


Related Information:


H2 BlockersProton Pump Inhibitors



Carol Ann Rinzler; Ken DeVault, MD, First. Heartburn & Reflux For Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2004. 163-176. Print.

Medicines and You: A Guide for Older Adults U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

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