Seniors and Elders Month

October is Seniors and Elders Month in Manitoba. As well as celebrating the contributions of older adults, this month is also a time to find ways to improve the quality of life for older Manitobans and to assist them in remaining a vital part of the community.

One way to improve quality of life is by understanding medications and their interactions. By doing so, the risk of harm from medication mix-ups is reduced. Read on to find out how!

Take with Questions!
Five Questions to Ask About Your Medications

By Laurie Thompson

When you choose a cell phone, you ask questions such as: “Is there coverage outside the city?” Same thing when buying a car: “What are the safety features?” But do you ever ask questions about your health care? About taking medications safely?

Medication mix-ups can and do happen. Asking questions is a powerful action that every member of the public can take to improve medication safety. October is Seniors and Elders Month. It is a great time to review how you can help reduce the risk of harm from medication mix-ups. To help improve medication safety, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute is encouraging the public to “Take with Questions!!”

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to medication mix-ups. In 2008, the Canadian Institute of Health Information found that two-thirds of seniors were on five or more drugs, and 21 percent of these took at least 10 drugs. It’s easy to see how the average person can lose track of what they are taking and how often they are taking it.

Ask your pharmacist and other members of your healthcare team about your medications. Five important questions are:

  1. What has changed about your prescription and why?
  2. What medication do I need to continue taking? Why?
  3. What is the correct way to take the medication? How long?
  4. How do I know that the medication is working?  What are the side-effects?
  5. What follow-up do I need?

Ask these questions every time a new medication is prescribed or given and when over-the-counter medications are purchased. Ask questions in the hospital, at the pharmacy and during healthcare appointments.

To assist you with asking questions about your medications, the Manitoba Institute of Patient Safety has two resources. Use our It’s Safe to Ask medication card to list all of your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, including vitamins, minerals and herbal/natural products. Use our 5 Questions to Ask About Your Medications – Patient Notes to write down the answers to the important five questions. Both the medication card and the patient notes can be obtained by visiting or calling 1-866-927-6477.

Print the tools and fold them into a handy wallet size. Keep your medication card up-to-date and share it with your pharmacist, doctor and nurse. Learn to be safe!

Laurie Thompson is executive director of the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety. MIPS is an independent, not-for-profit corporation established in 2004 to promote and co-ordinate activities that improve patient safety and enhance quality healthcare in Manitoba.

Important Links:
It’s Safe to Ask medication card
5 Questions to Ask About Your Medication – Patient Notes