7 Simple Tips to Help You Take Your COPD Medication as Directed
Overall, studies report that about 50 percent of prescriptions are not taken "as directed." Taking your medication as directed means taking the right dose, at the right time, in the right way, and taking it as often as it's supposed to be taken. When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), taking your prescribed medication properly can prevent you from getting sicker, keep you out of the hospital, and reduce the cost of treatment over time.
People are particularly likely to deviate from the directions on their prescriptions if they must take medications indefinitely for a chronic disease such as COPD. Studies show that for long-term therapy, the adherence rate (how frequently people take their medications as prescribed) drops off with time. It requires a commitment to stick with a medication intended to prevent future consequences of a chronic condition if you feel generally well, compared with when you need to take a drug for symptoms that are currently bothering you.
Unfortunately, the consequences of not adhering to COPD treatment regimens are particularly harmful to older individuals who depend more on medications and are less able to weather the negative health effects of not taking their medication as they should.
If you need help sticking with your COPD medication regimen, try these tips:
1. Ask questions. Make sure you completely understand the benefits of your medications and the consequences, both immediate and long-term, of not taking them. Ask your doctor to explain this to you and keep asking questions until you are certain you understand the answers.
2. Get clear instructions. Not all COPD medications come as pills. If you are prescribed drugs in the form of an inhaler, make sure you have clear instructions for its use. Always ask a medical provider, whether a doctor or nurse, to guide you through the process the first time. “Refresher" instructions are often useful if you have persistent symptoms despite adherence to a prescribed regimen.
3. Be forthcoming about side effects. If you are reluctant to continue a medication because of unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth or upset stomach, don’t suffer in silence or simply stop taking the medication. Ask your doctor if there are other options. In some cases, side effects become less frequent or less severe as you continue taking the medication.
4. Compensate for your challenges. If you have low vision, request that your pharmacy dispense prescriptions with large-print labels. Also, if you have trouble opening pill bottles because of arthritis—ask for non-childproof lids.
5. Portion out your weekly prescriptions. If you’re on multiple medications, use a dosette, a compartmentalized box with multiple lids labeled with the day and time the doses need to be taken. Another option: Make a medication checklist and hang it on the wall near the place where you take your drugs.
6. Make it memorable. Keep your medications in a location where you do something else at the same time every day. For example, keep the pills you must take at breakfast, lunch, and dinner near the place where you prepare or eat those meals. Keep medications you take upon waking beside your alarm clock, and keep those you take at bedtime on your nightstand table. Or tape a reminder note to your medicine cabinet or refrigerator—whatever will help make you more mindful of your regimen.
7. Keep records. Keep a record of the brand name and the generic name of your medication, so you know which medication corresponds to what treatment—even if an alternative brand name or generic form is dispensed.