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Senior Medication Management and Safety Tips

Pills

As people age, they are often required to take more medications. Nearly one-third of adults ages 57 to 85 take at least five prescription drugs. Those with chronic illnesses may take more than 20 prescription drugs, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

More drugs mean more potential for side-effects, mix-ups, and adverse reactions with other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, supplements and even food. However, most caregivers and patients are not aware of the warnings that come along with their medications. Almost every medication comes with warnings about potential health risks and side effects, both mild and serious. Proper senior medication management is needed to ensure seniors stay safe, even if they use only a couple prescriptions.

Talk About Senior Medication Management

It is important for caregivers, patients, and family members to be aware of senior medication management. This involves understanding all side effects and adverse reactions that may occur with a certain prescription or over-the-counter drug.

Some senior medication management safety questions to consider include:

  • Are the medications being taken properly according to the label or doctor’s instructions?
  • Are all prescriptions current?
  • Does the patient understand any potential side effects of the medication or any potential interactions with their other prescriptions or over-the-counter medications or supplements?
  • Are all of the patient’s doctors aware of all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and/or supplements being taken by the patient?
  • Is the patient using any sort of medication management tools such as a pill box or a Alert1 Medication Reminder and Dispenser?

The FDA has provided an up-to-date medications list that is wise to keep on hand to share with caregivers and physicians.  

Safe and Smart Medication Storage

Contrary to what many people think, medications should not be stored in your bathroom medicine cabinet. Bathrooms vary in temperature from showers or baths. The heat and humidity in bathrooms damages medicine and causes it to deteriorate. Instead, consider the following tips.

  • Store medications in a cool, dry area that is convenient to access.  A dark drawer or cabinet that is not exposed to heat or sunlight is ideal.
  • Keep the medications in the bottles they came in. The amber color of the bottle protects the medicine from heat. The label keeps all your information (what medicine it is, how often to take, prescription refill number, and pharmacy phone number) easily accessible.
  • If your loved one lives with a spouse or other family members, keep everyone’s medications separate. This will decrease the chance of taking the wrong medication.
  • Your loved one may find it helpful to keep their medications near a counter or tabletop. They can rest the pill bottle on a flat surface when opening the container to fill their Medication Reminder and Dispenser. If your loved on happens to drop the pill, it will land on the tabletop instead of falling down the sink drain.
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting where medicines are stored. This easy senior medication management ensures they take the correct prescription. Medications should never be taken in the dark.  

An Annual Check-up for the Medicine Cabinet

Doctor

To improve the health and safety of the elderly, caregivers should do an annual “check-up” of their loved one’s medicine cabinet. Folks will improve their senior medication management by reviewing their medicines and discussing concerns with their medical providers.

Here are some guidelines for your annual check-up:

  • Check the expiration date on each package.  Outdated medications may not work like they used to. Discard out-of-date medications.
  • Look inside each bottle, even if it’s not outdated, to ensure that the content is not discolored, dried out, or crumbling. Discard items that have outlived their shelf life.  
  • Dispose of recalled medications. Recalled medications have surged in recent years. It is always a good idea to look for recalled medications in your loved one’s cabinet. While many of these recalls are deemed “not dangerous,” the medications will not be as effective as intended. The Federal Government maintains a database of recalled medications for you to check.  
  • Make sure the medicine is in its original container. This will ensure there are no mix ups.
  • Discard leftover prescription medicines from a previous illness or condition. They should never be used to treat symptoms that seem like a previous illness. The symptoms may seem the same, but the cause could be different, or the medicine may not be the right one this time around.
  • Restock supplies that are low or missing. This is especially important for drugs needed in emergencies and severe illnesses. Always make sure these are up-to-date and on hand. 

Proper Disposal of Medications

Meds 2

A key aspect of senior medication management is the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals. Consider the safety of children, pets, and the environment around you.

Federal Guidelines urges consumers to:

  • Take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw them in the trash.
  • Mix prescription drugs with an unpalatable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags.
  • Flush prescription medications down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs to do so.
  • When disposing of a prescription bottle, always remove the label and scratch off all personal information.
  • Take advantage of community pharmaceutical take-back programs or community solid waste programs. If you have a program available in your area, this is a good way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.