These tips can help keep senior adults poison-safe:
- Keep an up-to-date list of all medicines a person takes. These include prescriptions, over-the-counter products, vitamins and herbals.
- Share the list with all doctors and pharmacists to check for drug interactions. Surprisingly, even herbal supplements can interact with a prescription drug. Be sure to always check with a doctor before adding vitamins or herbal supplements to daily prescription medicines.
- If possible, use the same pharmacy to fill all prescriptions. This also helps with avoiding negative drug interactions.
- Keep all medicines in their original containers to avoid confusion with the type of medicine and dosage. This is especially important when acetaminophen is an ingredient because taking too much can cause liver damage. Many pain relievers and sleeping products include acetaminophen and labels may not be clear as to what they contain.
- Always read the label prior to taking any medicine, and never try to take it in the dark or without glasses to avoid mistaking medicines or taking an overdose.
- Follow all medicine dosage instructions to avoid taking too much.
- Develop a system for medicine tracking to help show when it has been taken, such as a check-off list or medicine journal. This helps to ensure the medicine has been taken also helps prevent extra doses from being taken accidentally.
- Dispose of all medicines that are no longer needed, such as expired medicines and prescriptions that have been discontinued. This helps to prevent senior adults from taking the wrong medicine or drugs interacting with each other. Many communities have collection events or drop boxes for safe disposal of medicines, so ask your local pharmacist for suggestions. To find out when and where the next collection event will be, click on one of these links: http://www.medicationcleanout.com or http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html. Some police departments have full-time medication dropboxes so you can go by anytime to drop off those unused or expired medicines. To find one near you, just click on the link below: http://www.americanmedicinechest.com/.
- Never take someone else’s medicine. Even if it could be beneficial, it might interact with a person’s other medicines. Plus, taking other people’s prescriptions is illegal!
- Be very cautious when considering ordering medicines over the Internet. It is often impossible to tell if they are coming from another country, and the ingredients may not be what are claimed. This especially applies to supplements that make claims for “miracle cures.” Ask family members or a pharmacist to investigate the site before sending money or taking products obtained online.
- Keep the Poison Help toll-free number handy for poison information and emergencies. If a poisoning is suspected, call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
For more information about seniors and medicine safety, visit our website at www.poisoncontrol.org or call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.