If you’re an older adult, or caring for an older adult, medication safety is an important issue. As we get older, we take more and more medications and even more vitamins and supplements. With the increase in medications, there’s a bigger chance that you may experience unpleasant side effects or even have medications that have harmful interactions with each other. Follow these tips on medication safety for seniors and always talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about medication safety for yourself or a loved one.
- Take medicines as prescribed. A huge part of medication safety is making sure you don’t take anyone else’s prescribed medications. Because your doctor has not prescribed them to you, you’re likely not aware of any side effects or how they could interact with medications you’re already taking. Additionally, depending on the type of medication, you can become addicted. You should also take any prescribed medications exactly as they are prescribed. For example, if you are prescribed 40 mg of a certain medication twice a day, don’t take that medication three times a day or only once a day. Because certain medications have to build up in your system, don’t stop taking something suddenly or skip a day or two.
- Store medicines correctly and check expiration dates. Most medications need to be stored in a cool, dry place like a high dresser drawer, medicine cabinet, or kitchen cabinet away from the sink and hot appliances. However, some medicines may need to be stored in the refrigerator. Just be sure to read the instructions on the bottle carefully and follow them exactly. It’s also important to check the expiration dates on medications as expired medications may not work at best or can make you sick at worst.
- Be knowledgeable about possible interactions or side effects. If you’re being prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor and/or pharmacist about how it may interact with your current medications and the possible side effects the new medication may cause. Be sure to follow directions on medications that tell you not to drink alcohol while taking them too.
- Keep a medication list. If you’re on lots of different medications, keeping an up to date medication list is very important. If you struggle with remembering things like this, ask a family member or friend if they can help. It’s not a bad idea for a trusted loved one to have a copy themselves anyway. On your list, you want to include the dosage or amount of medication you’re supposed to take, the prescription’s brand and/or generic name, why you’re taking each medication, how often you take it, and the name and phone number of the pharmacy that fills it. You also want to include any over-the-counter medications you take regularly (like aspirin or others that you can buy without a prescription) and any vitamins or supplements you take too. If you see multiple doctors, make sure that each doctor has an up to date copy of your list.
National Drug Take Back Day is October 27. Click here to learn how you can safely dispose of your expired or unneeded prescription medications.