Age at interview: 70
Number of medicines: 5
Cultural background: Anglo-Australian
Don is a retired national manager of human resources at a medical college. He lives with his wife in a coastal area not far from Melbourne. He is very active in the community, chairing several boards on a voluntary basis.
Current medicines and conditions
Some medicines are taken regularly; some are taken only as needed.
- Monoplus (fosinopril sodium/hydrochlorothiazide): high blood pressure
- Plavix (clopidogrel): prevents blood clots and stroke
- Tegretol (carbamazepine): trigeminal neuralgia
- Physiotens (moxonidine): high blood pressure
- Lercanidipine (lercanidipine hydrochloride): high blood pressure
Don currently takes five medicines for trigeminal neuralgia and high blood pressure. He finds them easy to take and has suffered only minor side effects that do not bother him; the benefits of his medicines have been enormous and far outweigh the minor disadvantages. Don may have Parkinson’s disease. Some friends are encouraging him to start medication for it as soon as possible, but Don politely resists the views of those not medically trained, as he has confidence in his doctor’s knowledge and training and he believes it is important to follow their advice.
More about Don
Don has had a healthy life, although he has been taking medicines to treat high blood pressure for 30 years. He was also diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia some years ago which caused excruciating pain on one side of his face. He has been taking a low dose of Tegretol to treat this ever since, which has kept it under control. Don does not usually talk about his medicines with other people, but he has readily talked about his experiences with Tegretol because it has worked so successfully for him.
Don started taking Plavix three years ago when his blood pressure was ‘skyrocketing’, to prevent a stroke. The high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms and Don has not had any side effects from the medication. However, he has found that he bruises and bleeds very easily, which is not dangerous but is annoying as he does a lot of building projects around the house.
Don has no problems taking his medicines and describes the process as ‘painless’. It was not difficult starting his medicines and he had no concerns about taking them. All of his medicines are covered by the PBS and he is now entitled to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, so the cost of his medicines is manageable. However, he has found over the last six to twelve months that he occasionally forgets to take the evening medicines after a hectic day or when he is busy. The morning tablets that he takes with breakfast are not difficult to remember because he has a well-established routine, whereas he has also only been taking medicines in the evening for about a year. Don knows when he has forgotten to take the evening medicines, as he can feel a slight ‘tinge’ in his face the next morning. He also finds managing his medicines more of a challenge when his is on holidays and out of routine. So his wife occasionally reminds him and he keeps his medicines where he can see them, such as placing them with the clothes he sets out for the next day.
Don and his neurologist suspect he has Parkinson’s disease as he is experiencing slurred speech, reduced fine motor skills, particularly when typing, restricted movement and low energy. Don has talked about this possibility with two acquaintances who have the disease, one of whom has encouraged Don to start medication for it as soon as possible. Don is looking forward to the symptoms being treated as they are now debilitating and he is determined to continue his work in the community. However, his doctor has not advised that medication is necessary as yet and Don would always prefer to follow his doctor’s advice. (Don later discovered that he did not have Parkinson’s disease. His doctor was investigating alternative diagnoses.) He has a good relationship with his GP and neurologist and is careful to follow their instructions. However, he is willing to change healthcare practitioners to find one he can communicate with, which he did to find his current neurologist. Many people have suggested complementary medicines to Don, but he has greater confidence in those who are medically trained and he values scientific evidence. Don finds the best approach with people who are making unwelcome suggestions about medicines is to politely listen and not argue or try to convince them otherwise.
Don has been surprised and delighted at how well his medicines have worked for him and encourages other people to find a doctor they can communicate with and have confidence in their abilities, and to avoid self-medicating.
Listen to Don's story
Don’s healthcare providers suspect that he has Parkinson’s disease. He hopes he can be treated for the condition soon, whatever the eventual diagnosis.
Don does not believe in complementary medicines, but he has family members and colleagues who would like him to try them. He has found a way to politely decline that people seem to accept.
Don rarely discusses his medicines. However, he told his family and will tell others in similar circumstances about the success of one medicine in treating a painful and debilitating condition.
It is important to Don that he maintains a consistent routine when he travels and one that fits with his plans for the day.
Don describes how he talked to his doctor about what to do if he forgets to take his medicine.
Don receives occasional reminders from his wife to take his medicines, particularly when they are on holidays.
Other people's stories
The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with