5 Must-Haves Seniors Should Keep in their Medicine Cabinets

Medicine Cabinet

Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet ensures you have the treatments you need at any time. Over-the-counter medications can greatly help in the case of emergencies. As a result, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of your medicine cabinet to make sure you have essential treatments available and unexpired. Your medicine cabinet may look different when you are 65 than it did when you were 35. The medications recommended to have on-hand change as you age, so you should update your stock and dispose of any expired medicines. 


There are five categories of medicines[1] that aging adults should keep handy. These five categories are pain relievers, heartburn relievers, allergy alleviators, cold and cough remedies, and first-aid supplies. We will cover each of these categories in greater detail. Additionally, we will clarify what to keep out of your medicine cabinet, as some over-the-counter medicines can interact badly with prescription drugs and have adverse effects. 


Preparing a fully stocked medicine cabinet is just one step aging adults can take to plan for their future safety. Seniors can also opt for an Alert1 medical alert device to guarantee that emergency help is always available at their fingertips. Being prepared can bring peace of mind, as accidents can happen without any warning. A personal emergency response system, along with essential medical provisions, can help you feel secure that you have what you need in the event you require help. 


1. Pain Relievers 


Experiencing aches and pain is a normal part of getting older, so seniors should have a safe pain reliever in their medicine cabinet. Acetaminophen, brand name Tylenol, is often considered a safe pain reliever for seniors. Other over-the-counter options, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, may cause serious side effects. These types of painkillers, called NSAIDs, can cause organ damage and can increase the risk of internal bleeding. While you should not use aspirin (an NSAID) as a pain reliever, you can keep full-dose aspirin in your medicine cabinet as an emergency medicine for heart attacks


Seniors can use acetaminophen or other pain relief options, like ice packs or heating pads, as occasional relief for pain. However, if the pain is chronic, seniors should consult their physicians to diagnose the underlying cause. Taking too much acetaminophen has its risks, too, so seniors should monitor their usage closely. Depending on the other medications a senior takes, acetaminophen can have bad interactions with other drugs, which can cause health complications. Always ask your physician about what pain relief methods they recommend for your particular situation, and what specific OTC pain relievers you should always keep on hand.


2. Heartburn Relievers 


Heartburn tends to worsen as you age, so it is good to have over-the-counter relief options at your disposal. Chewable calcium carbonate, like Tums, and tablets, like Pepcid, are common drug store options. These can provide temporary relief from the uncomfortable symptoms of heartburn. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging to make sure you take the proper amount. 


Seniors should keep track of continual heartburn, as that can signal gastrointestinal distress or diseases like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD[2] requires medical attention and a treatment plan prescribed by a physician. Elderly adults should communicate with their doctors if their heartburn symptoms worsen.


3. Allergy Relievers 


If you experience symptoms during allergy season, you may want to have allergy relief medication to help mitigate discomfort, such as itchiness and a runny nose. There are many types of allergy medications available both by prescription and at the drugstore. It can be hard to know the root cause of an allergy, so check with your doctor for an official diagnosis, especially if your symptoms are causing discomfort. Your doctor will be able to develop the best treatment plan and make a recommendation as to which allergy relief medication you should keep on hand. 


Aging adults need to be cautious of which allergy medications they use, as some can interact badly with other medications, and some can have negative side effects on their own. Seniors should avoid first-generation antihistamines[3], which can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea. Examples of first-generation antihistamines are Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton. Instead, seniors may do better with Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra on hand to treat minor symptoms. These second- and third-generation antihistamines do not have the same drowsiness effect, and they typically last longer in your system. This means you are likely to have a longer relief period after taking the medicine. Again, your doctor should advise which is the best option for you.


4. Cold and Cough Remedies 


For seniors, sometimes home remedies are better than drugstore medication when it comes to treating a cough or cold. Often, cold medicine targets several symptoms with a blend of medication instead of treating a primary symptom. Taking these multipurpose medicines increases the risk of a bad interaction with other prescription medicines or worsened effects of a medical condition, such as high blood pressure. 


If you feel a cold coming on, one of the best things to do is to have a cup of hot tea with honey to soothe a cough. Other remedies include using a saline nasal spray to break up congestion, gargling salt water for a sore throat, and getting plenty of rest. While there are drug store cold remedies your doctor can recommend to keep in your medicine cabinet, you may want to try other methods of relief first. 


5. First-Aid Fixes 


Everyone should keep a first-aid kit in a convenient location for when accidents happen. The Red Cross has a list of essential supplies to keep in a kit, and you can add items more relevant to your personal care needs. You can find pre-stocked kits at the drug store, or you can build your own. 


If you have sensitive or fragile skin, there are band aids that can protect your skin without being too sticky, risking damage. Be sure to replenish any supplies as you deplete them to make sure you always have what you need when an unexpected incident arises. 


What to Keep Out of Your Medicine Cabinet 


Knowing what to have in your medicine cabinet is as important as knowing what not to have. Certain medications can pose potential risks to seniors and link to serious medical conditions. Aging adults should be wary of supplements for brain health, some diabetes medications, and other over-the-counter and prescription drugs. But, if you currently take any of the following medications, do not immediately stop taking them. Some medications require a weaning off process to ensure the body reacts to a smaller dose of the drug in your system. You should bring a list of any medicines you take to your doctor and discuss which are necessary and which may be doing more harm than good.


·        Dietary Supplements for Brain Health- There is lacking evidence[4] that non-FDA approved dietary supplements claiming brain health benefits actually do anything to help the brain. These supplements are not worth the money nor the potential risk they may have to your health. 

·        Diabetes Medications- We have written about the link between certain combinations of diabetes medications and the risk of falling. Seniors should consult their doctors about the best medications to take for their conditions. Never stop taking any diabetes medication you may be on until talking through a plan with your doctor.

·        Variety of Other Medications- This list covers more medications that are suggested for elderly adults to avoid. Many of these medications impact a senior’s balance and organ function and can result in an increased chance for strokes or falls. Some medications from the list include NSAIDs, anticholinergic drugs, and antihistamines and other “PM” products which cause drowsiness. 


A Medical Alert Device is a Key Part of an Emergency Plan 


After knowing the essentials to keep in (and out) of your medicine cabinet, you can start to stock up. Healthcare needs change for people as they age, so it is good to be planning ahead. 


Of course, having a well-stocked medicine cabinet is only one part of an emergency plan for seniors. Seniors who are aging in place should consider adding an alert pendant or an alert bracelet as part of their health plan. Elderly adults often start using an alert button after an emergency incident has occurred, but it is best to start using a button alarm before you need one. Alert1 offers a great range of medical alert systems to give you protection and peace of mind, fully confident that help is just a button press away. 


With Alert1 products, you can have on-the-go and at-home protection, depending on your needs and lifestyle. Additionally, you can choose to have a device with fall detection technology. Sensors in the devices can detect when a fall happens, which automatically triggers an emergency call. An alert device keeps you connected to help for the moments you need it most. Just as you would reach into your medicine cabinet for a band aid, you can easily summon help with your Alert1 device, 24/7/365.


Alert1 medical alerts have great features, which make our products and services appealing to elderly adults. For example, Alert1 does not lock our members into lengthy contracts for our devices. In addition to this, our Command Center operators remain on the line with you until help arrives after you make an emergency call. Other alert device companies do not offer this courtesy. There is no time like the present to start making an emergency plan to protect your future well-being. Make an Alert1 emergency alarm device part of your plan with any of our great medical alert options. Your future self will thank you for thinking ahead. 






[1] Nania, Rachel. 2021, June 7. 5 Essentials to Keep in Your Medicine Cabinet After 50. AARP.org. 5 Essentials to Keep in Your Medicine Cabinet After 50.

[2] DeVault, Kenneth R. 2007, June. Management of Reflux Disease in Elderly Patients. Gastroenterology and Hepatology: The Independent Peer-Reviewed Journal. Management of Reflux Disease in Elderly Patients.

[3] Cochrane, Zara Risoldi. 2020, April 6. Popular Over-the-Counter Oral Antihistamine Brands. Healthline.com. Popular Over-the-Counter Oral Antihistamine Brands.

[4] Fifield, Kathleen. 2019, June 11. New Report Pans Supplements for Brain Health. AARP.org. New Report Pans Supplements for Brain Health.