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Hand holding a packet of pills

Medication management

As you grow older, you may find that you are using an increasing number of medicines including prescribed, over-the-counter and complementary medicines to assist in the treatment and prevention of diseases, increase life expectancy or improve quality of life.

Medicines may cause harm if used incorrectly or inappropriately and older people are more at risk of experiencing side effects from their medicines. You may also experience difficulties with vision, hearing, memory or cognitive functions that can make managing your medicines safely a lot harder.

So, it is important to understand as much as you can about the medicines you are taking. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions and tell them about any allergies or past problems you have had taking medicines. You should also make sure you tell them if you're taking any medication that they may not know about.

Another good idea is to carry a list of your medicines with you. The list should include details such as the name of the medication, strength, what it is for, how much you take and when, and any special instructions. You can print out a list template or download a Medicines List App for your smartphone on the NPS (formally known as 'National Prescribing Service') website.

What services can help?

Whether you're living in your own home or in an aged care home, there are services that can help you to develop a plan for managing your medicines.

This can involve reviewing all the medicines you take to ensure you need them, checking your medicines are stored correctly and seeing if you will benefit from a dose administration aid or other system to remind you to take your medicines on the right day and at the right time.

Help at home

The Home Medicines Review (HMR) program may help you to manage your medicines if you're living in your own home.

You may benefit from a medication review at home if you:

  • take five or more regular medicines
  • take more than 12 doses of medicines per day
  • have had significant changes to your medication in the last three months
  • take medicines that require regular monitoring such as anticoagulants or insulin
  • have difficulty managing your medication because of low vision or difficulty opening medication packaging
  • have recently been discharged from hospital or another type of temporary care.

The review by an accredited pharmacist takes place in your home, at a time convenient to you. The review gives you the opportunity to ask the pharmacist about your medicines and how to manage them well. Your doctor will use the results of your review to develop a medication management plan with you.

You can have an HMR once every 12 months, or more frequently if a significant change in your condition or medication occurs. You need a referral from a General Practitioner to have a HMR, so talk to your GP about this. Read more about the HMR program on the Department of Health website. Or, you can contact the Department of Human Services on 13 20 11 or talk to your doctor.

Help in an aged care home

If you're living in an aged care home, you may be eligible to access the Residential Medication Management Review (RMMR) service. You must be a permanent resident in an aged care home or in a transitional care facility and hold a current Department of Human Services or Department of Veterans Affairs card to be eligible for this service.

While all aged care homes must ensure that medication is managed safely and correctly, an RMMR is designed to enhance the quality of medical care that you receive and help minimise any possible adverse effects of some medicines. With your consent, an accredited pharmacist completes the review with you and/or your carer in the aged care home and provides a report to your doctor and the aged care home.

Staff at the aged care home, in consultation with a doctor, use the results of your review as a basis to develop your medication management plan. If you like, you can also ask your carer or a family member to be part of this process.

Read more about the RMMR service on the Department of Health website.

My Health Record

A My Health Record will also help with managing your medicines. A My Health Record is a secure online summary of your health information. You control what goes into it, and who is allowed to access it. Your My Health Record allows you and your doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers to view and share your health information to provide you with the best possible care. For more information, see the My Health Record website.

Resources and support

For information about the different types of medicines available, advice on how to use them wisely and other practical tools, visit the NPS Medicine Wise website.

See what others have done

Last reviewed: 30 June, 2015.