What Every Caregiver Ought to Know About Medication Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that each year, more than one million visits to hospital emergency rooms are documented as a result from medication problems. In addition, almost 180,000 of those visits are by elderly individuals.

As people get older, it’s common to be placed on multiple medications to help with different bodily ailments. In fact, many seniors take more than five prescription medications, leaving them at a higher risk for developing drug adverse events. Additionally, because our bodies change as we age, it can affect the way medicines are absorbed into our systems, leading to potential problems. However, with a few basic safety tips, you can help avoid this happening to your loved one:

Take medications as prescribed

Medications should always be taken as directed by a healthcare professional. Take them regularly, and don’t skip doses or cease taking them until consulting with a doctor. Even if your loved one feels cured/healed, he should continue taking it until his provider tells him not to. Certain medications can only properly work when taken consistently on a regular schedule, and often there are many reasons behind taking a medication at a particular time with a specific dose. If your loved one has any negative side effects, or has questions, he should consult with his physician.

Assess your medications annually with a doctor

Each year, a senior should meet with his doctor to review all the medications he is taking, and to ask any questions regarding them. Whenever you, or your loved one, has a question, just ask. Your doctor (and pharmacist) are key resources for medication information, and your questions assist them in knowing what additional information to provide you. If your loved one sees multiple doctors, be sure to review the medications and supplements with each provider. Sometimes, the doctor may even eliminate a prescription or two that may no longer be necessary.

The review may even be an appropriate time to suggest alternative medicines and dosages, or to find other more affordable (and still effective) prescriptions. Meeting with your doctor about your medications can also help older individuals avoid negative drug interactions.

Be organized

It can be difficult juggling several different medications, so keeping a current list of all your medications is crucial. Be sure to include on your list the following:

  • The name brand of the drug, and the generic name for it (if possible)
  • The reason why you take the drug
  • The dosage (for instance: 300 mg)
  • The time of day you have it, and how often


This list will prove to be helpful when you meet with your doctor for your annual review, and can assist them in adjusting your medications and identifying any possible harmful drug interactions.

Remember to include any over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and other supplements in your list. It is encouraged to keep a couple copies of the list–one for the senior, and one for you as the caregiver (or a trusted friend/neighbor).

Pay attention to the details

It’s important to thoroughly read all prescribed medications and their bales before using them. If you are unclear of any instructions, or have questions, don’t be afraid to ask the doctor or your pharmacist.

As mentioned earlier, older individuals are at a greater risk for drug interactions. These can occur when one prescription affects how another prescription works, or if a particular medical condition affects how a drug will respond, or even if a drug will react to a particular food/drink.

Be thorough when learning of any possible drug interactions. Carefully read the instructions and labels, and review any detailed directions given by the doctor.

Refrain from using others’ medications

Never take someone else’s medication. Medications are specific to the person they are prescribed for, and can often be harmful if not taken appropriately. Taking another person’s prescription can cause harmful drug reactions, or even drug interactions. It is best to only use what a doctor has prescribed for you.

Appropriately store medications

Medications have to be stored a particular way–some have to be refrigerated, while most have to be kept in a dry place at room temperature. Be sure to keep them away from direct sunlight, and keep them in a safe place where children cannot reach them. In addition, if you have any expired medications, they should be appropriately discarded as they can be less effective, or even toxic.

Following these guidelines can help prevent an unnecessary health problem and/ or hospitalization. At Aegis, our nursing staff and trained caregivers offer a high level of service including managing your medication and ensuring your safety/ personal care needs are met. For more information, visit http://aegishospice.com/.  

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