5 Medication Safety Tips for Caregivers

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Over two million Americans experience adverse drug reactions from prescription medications each year. Whether you’re settling into your sixties or caring for older loved ones, you should be extra careful when taking or administering prescription and over-the-counter medicines.  These medication safety tips are a good place to start.

Know Your Medicines

What you don’t know CAN hurt you. The more you know about any medicine, the better you can be sure you or your loved-one are using it properly. Keep an up-to-date list of what you or your loved-one is taking. Keep it on hand at all times – especially when visiting the doctor. Record the:

  • Medicine’s brand name, if applicable, and generic name
  • Frequency (how often its taken)
  • Dosage (ie: one pill daily; 300 mg.)
  • Prescribing doctor (if applicable)
  • Reason for taking

To help, print and fill-in this medicine list.

Take As Prescribed

Take medicine regularly and according to the doctor’s instructions. The instructions may include crushing or cutting pills. Don’t skip doses or stop taking medicines without talking to the doctor first, even if you or your loved-one feels better. Sometimes, it may take a few days to feel the negative effects of stopping a medicine.

Know Potential Side Effects

From simple, over-the-counter aspirin to the most sophisticated prescription medication on the market, all medicines come with side effects. Negative side effects can happen to anyone, regardless of whether they are taking one or a dozen different medicines.

What do you do? Learn what side effects may occur. You can do this by:

  • Reading medicine labels and bottles
  • Referring to any pamphlets that came from the pharmacy with prescription medications
  • Asking a doctor or pharmacist

Keep Everyone Informed

If you or your loved-one sees multiple doctors, it is important that you tell each provider about everything being taken, including:

  • Prescriptions,
  • Over-the-counter medicines,
  • Vitamins,
  • Supplements, including herbs or herbal supplements.

If a doctor prescribes a new medication, and you did not disclose the full medicine list, you increase the risk of negative reactions.

Do NOT Use Expired Medicine

The expiration date is the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medication. Drug expiration dates exist on most medication labels, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements. For information on how to dispose expired medicine, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.

Store Properly

Most medications should be stored at room temperature. Avoid keeping them in places with high humidity, like the bathroom. Some medicines require refrigeration. Do not store medication in the refrigerator, unless the pharmacist, label, or package insert advises refrigeration after opening.

Avoid storing medication in places where kids and pets may be able to access it. Keep medicine in childproof bottles. It is advised to keep medicines locked in a cabinet or drawer to ensure everyone’s safety.

For more information on how to safely manage and administer medication, watch this short video.

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