Summary

  • When you go to hospital, it is important to tell your doctor or nurse about all the medication you take.
  • Medication includes prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) medication, supplements (vitamins) and natural medicines (for example, herbs).
  • If you take regular medication at home, bring it with you to hospital
  • During a hospital stay, your doctor will prescribe your medication for you and it will be given to you by your nurses.
  • In hospital, you should not take any medicine unless it has been prescribed for you and given to you by hospital staff.
When you go to hospital, it is important to tell your doctor or nurse about all the medication you take, including prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) medication, supplements (vitamins) and natural medicines (for example, herbs). Staff need to know what medication you take, because it can affect your health and care in hospital.

People take regular medication for many reasons. Often, as a person gets older, they may take multiple medications on a daily basis and many admissions to hospital can be related to medication. As a normal part of medication management, you should be talking to your doctor to make sure that each medication you take does not interact with any others you are taking. During a stay in hospital, this is just as important.

Taking medication in hospital

In hospital, it’s important to let the staff know when you take your medication. This is so the hospital staff can keep track of what and how much medication you take.

Your medication can come from numerous sources, such as:
  • different doctors and hospitals
  • self-prescribed, over-the-counter
  • medication for other conditions.

If you take regular medication at home, bring your medication to hospital, or have a family member or carer bring it from home. Give it all to your nurse or doctor to keep safe while you are in hospital.

Taking a lot of different medication increases the risk of side effects. Some types of medication can be harmful if they are taken together. In some cases, falls, confusion and incontinence can be caused by medication.

Tell hospital staff if you feel:
  • confused or ‘can’t think clearly’
  • unsteady while walking
  • unwell or in pain.
If hospital staff know what medication you are taking, and when you have taken it, they can make sure your medication is managed and limit the risk of side effects.

Managing your medication in hospital

Always carry an up-to-date list of your current medication (the name of the medication, the dose, and when and why you are taking it). Give this list to your nurse or doctor.

Always ask your doctor or nurse about your medication. Questions to ask include:
  • why your medication has been changed
  • what a new medicine is for, and if it is necessary
  • what medication you should take and how much
  • why you are taking the medication.

You may be told to stop taking a medication. Sometimes, this is because it is not necessary anymore, or because it may do you more harm than good. It can often be better for you to take less medication, but you should always ask why it is being stopped.

What you should know about your medication before you leave hospital

When you leave hospital, you or your family or carers should make sure you get:
  • written information about your medication and any changes made
  • an accurate and updated list of your medication – take this list with you when you see your doctor or other health professional.

When you go home, tell your local doctor, pharmacist and any other health professional you deal with about any medication changes that were made in hospital.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Hospital nursing staff
  • Allied health staff
References
Best care for older people everywhere - The toolkit, State of Victoria, Department of Health 2012 More information here

More information

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Hospitals explained

Preparing for hospital or surgery

Managing a hospital stay

Recovery and discharge

Older people in hospital

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: National Ageing Research Institute (NARI)

Last updated: September 2015

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