Recognizing meds that can affect driving ability

For just about any ailment that affects you, there’s a prescription or over-the-counter drug. While they may make you feel better, medications can affect you in negative ways, including your ability to drive.

“Side effects from medications can negatively affect older drivers, but this varies depending on the medication,” said Elin Schold Davis, coordinator of the Older Driver Initiative Project for the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Driving is a complex skill. People should take caution with medicines that list side effects of sleepiness, blurred vision, slowed movement, fainting, nausea or inability to focus or pay attention.

“It’s also important to consider how multiple medications can interact with each other. A pharmacist can advise how specific medications could potentially interact with each other and affect driving ability,” said Schold Davis, who is also a certified driver rehabilitation specialist.

If you have questions, speak to a specialist.

“Both doctors and pharmacists are important allies when it comes to understanding how medications can affect driving ability,” Schold Davis said.

At the doctor’s office

Don’t be afraid to take notes or request written instructions each time a medication is prescribed and at each subsequent visit to ensure that your understanding is up to date, Schold Davis said.

Be careful to have all variations recorded – for example, what to do if a dose is mistakenly missed or doubled.

“Sometimes these added suggestions are given verbally at your appointment, so write them down and double-check with the physician that you have recorded this information correctly. You can keep these instructions in a journal that can be brought with you to each appointment,” Schold Davis said. “Writing instructions down is not an admission of a memory problem, and medications are no place to test one’s memory. Write it down and check your notes.”

Name games

Some over-the-counter medications are sold under different names and dosages. Just because they are over-the-counter does not eliminate the risk of side effects or interaction with other medications. Keep an honest and complete medication list that includes over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal supplements, and review everything you take routinely with your physician, Schold Davis said.

Brown-bag it

“Put every bottle of medications, vitamins and supplements in a bag and take it to the doctor. This gives physicians the best information and can give you the most informed advice if they have an accurate picture of what you are taking, because the dosages and brands can make a difference,” Schold Davis said.

Manage medications

Consider a visit with an occupational therapist who knows that managing medications is instrumental to completing the activities of daily life.

“Occupational therapists can help older drivers manage medications by developing a plan to get to the pharmacy or gain easy access to refills, helping clients remember to take medications by creating a schedule and planning around daily activities, addressing self-care management and instrumental activities of daily living to support success,” Schold Davis said.

Written by Melissa Erickson. Photo by 123RF.

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