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Managing your meds

Seniors invited to attend sessions on medication safety

Managing your meds
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Video: How to Prevent Medication Incidents

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, September / October 2014

Myrene Hodgson isn't one to shy away from asking questions.

So during a recent talk aimed at helping seniors better manage their medication, she did not hesitate when the opportunity arose to ask a pharmacist a question about her medication.

At issue for the 90-year-old resident of Riverwood Square Retirement Living in south Fort Garry was whether she could "take six different medications at once?"

The answer, according to Robyn Small, the pharmacist giving the presentation, was yes - provided none of the medications interact with each other. That's why, Small added, it is so important for seniors to discuss this type of concern with their physicians, pharmacists or other health-care providers.

The exchange between Hodgson and Small illustrates the kinds of questions many seniors have about the medications they are taking, but don't always have the opportunity to ask. It's also why the Winnipeg Health Region has joined forces with the Manitoba Institute of Patient Safety, the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists, the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba, and the Long Term Care Association of Manitoba to stage a series of information sessions this fall entitled Medication, Safety and You.

The half-hour sessions will be held Oct. 27 to Oct. 30 at various locations (see schedule on page opposite for more information) and are aimed at all seniors living independently who may be taking medications.

"A lot of times, seniors don't fully understand what they're taking and the impact if they're taking something at the wrong time or missing a dose," says Linda Sherrin, General Manager at Riverwood, which will host one of the upcoming sessions. "So it's important for them to have a venue so they can reach out to an expert and ask those kinds of questions."

In fact, there are more than 30,000 commercial drugs available in Canada, with many seniors taking as many as eight or 12 different pills a day for a variety of ailments. Given these facts, it is not surprising that medication mistakes can and do happen.

Small, who provides medication to many of the residents attending the Riverwood seminar, says most seniors are well-informed about their medication. But like everyone else, they need a refresher from time to time to help prevent drug mishaps that often send people to the hospital emergency.

"Medication incidents get prevented when patients are really familiar with what they are taking, why they are taking them, and how they should be taken."

Christina Smith, 87, can attest to that. She calls herself a "walking medicine cabinet" taking a number of medications from prescription blood pressure medication to Tylenol a few times each day. "My doctor and pharmacist are very good at keeping me informed," says the Riverwood resident. "But there's no point for a lot of seniors in having all this information on a piece of paper if you don't know what it's all about, and this pharmacist (Small) did very well in explaining everything we need to know."

In addition to answering questions, pharmacists attending the upcoming talks will also provide seniors with other important information, such as how to read labels on medication containers and what to do if you make a mistake taking your medication.

Besides complimentary coffee, tea, and berry and yogurt parfaits, seniors attending the talks will also receive handouts that include an "it's safe to ask medication card" that can be used to keep track of what medications they are currently taking in case of an emergency, as well as a list of questions to ask their health-care providers about their medications.

Kathleen Macdonald, 90, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, says these kinds of events are helpful to many seniors, who tend to be diagnosed with new ailments on a regular basis as they age.

"Every day there's something more they tell me that I didn't want to hear," she says. "But the more you know about your medications, the better you can deal with your health."

Medication, Safety and You

Seniors are invited to attend a series of medication information sessions this fall sponsored by the Winnipeg Health Region, the Manitoba Institute of Patient Safety, the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists, the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba, and the Long Term Care Association of Manitoba. The sessions will be held at:

  • 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27 at Sturgeon Creek II, 707 Setter Street. Call 204-885-0303 to register.
  • 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28 at Riverwood Square, 1778 Pembina Highway. Call 204-275-7632 to register.
  • 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Portsmouth Retirement Living,125 Portsmouth Blvd. Call 204-284-5432 to register.
  • 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 at River Ridge I, 50 Ridgecrest Avenue. Call 204-589-2273 to register.

For more information on medication safety, visit

Joel Schlesinger is a Winnipeg writer.


About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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