The majority of seniors take at least one medication, and many juggle multiple prescriptions. As a matter of fact, according to one estimate, 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 69 take at least five prescription medications. That jumps to 46 percent for those between 70 and 79!
People of all ages depend on their doctors to prescribe medications that keep them as healthy and active as possible. However, responsible use of medication goes beyond just filling a prescription and taking it as instructed. It’s also important to be proactive about keeping your medications current. This includes having good communication with doctors and pharmacists as well as knowing what to do when your prescription expires.
Keep Medical Professionals Up to Date
Your doctor needs to be aware of any medications you are taking. This might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s not as simple as it seems.
Many people see several doctors for different health needs, so they may be taking medications that were prescribed by more than one provider. Each doctor needs to be kept informed about all medications you are taking, even if he or she is not the one who prescribed them.
In addition, you should let your doctor know if you are taking any non-prescription medications. This would include over the counter medications, herbs, supplements, and natural remedies. This is important because even non-prescription medications can interact with your other medications. This could possibly decrease their effectiveness or cause undesirable side effects.
Your pharmacist also needs to know any and all medications that you are taking, since he or she is trained to spot potential problem interactions. If you purchase medications from more than one pharmacy, make sure that the pharmacists who fill your prescriptions are aware of all of your medications.
Many people use a medicines list to help them keep track of exactly what they are taking, how much they take, and what they take it for. Keeping everything on one list will help everyone involved in your healthcare stay up to date. Also, in the event of an emergency, this information is valuable. If you keep your medications list on a notepad, there is a risk of losing it. You could use an app designed to help you keep track of your medications and even remind you when it’s time to take them!
What About Expired Medications?
Some people may be tempted to continue taking medication after the expiration date because of the cost to replace it. Others may simply lose track of time and before they know it the expiration date has passed. Is taking expired medication really a big deal?
The answer depends on a number of factors. A drug’s expiration date is the last date that the manufacturer guarantees its full potency and safety. However, in most cases, there is no information about exactly how long a medication will last. A drug’s shelf life is affected by factors such as ingredients, preservatives, and storage conditions. These conditions include temperature, light, and humidity factors. Thus, it becomes nearly impossible to determine the exact date at which a drug becomes unsafe to use.
Most drugs begin to lose effectiveness with time. For some the breakdown is rapid, but for others, it takes longer. Many liquid medications are susceptible to bacterial growth and could be dangerous if taken after their expiration date. Certain drugs, such as insulin, are also known to break down or lose potency quickly after their expiration date. Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to provide you with specific information about your prescriptions.
Simply put, if you take medications that have expired, you run the risk that they have lost some of their effectiveness. If you depend on your prescriptions to manage a chronic or life-threatening condition, you need to know that they are going to be effective.
When it comes to your health, you probably agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry. The safest course is to dispose of medications that have passed their expiration date and replace them.
Safe Disposal of Medications
If you have any medications that have expired or that you no longer need, it’s important to dispose of them properly.
In most cases, a medicine take-back option is the best choice. Some communities hold periodic events and set up temporary collection sites. Others have permanent collection sites at pharmacies, hospitals, or law-enforcement offices. The Drug Enforcement Administration allows you to search their website for a disposal location in your area.
If there are no take-back programs where you live, another option may be to dispose of medications in the trash. However, it’s important to do it the right way. You should never simply toss a bottle of pills or any other medication in the garbage. There is too big a risk that they could still be accidentally found and ingested. One method for safe disposal is to mix the medication with an unpalatable substance like dirt or kitty litter. And then place it in a sealed plastic bag before throwing it away. Be sure to delete any personal information from the label itself before throwing away the container.
Most medications are unsafe to dispose of by flushing down the toilet. However, a small number of medications come with specific instructions to flush them immediately if a take-back option isn’t available.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist and follow their directions as to the safest way to dispose of any of your unused prescriptions, especially those that don’t come with specific disposal instructions.
Visit the Davis Community’s Assisted Living and SNF in Wilmington NC
If you or a loved one are in need of help living a safe, active and independent lifestyle, call the Davis Community today at 910-686-7195 or simply complete and submit our online information request form. We provide exceptional assisted living and skilled nursing services in Wilmington, NC. We offer a strong and supportive environment where your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Davis Community is pleased to offer customized concierge home care services, including meal preparation and nutritional guidance, to independent seniors living in Landfall, Cambridge Village, Wrightsville Beach and Porter’s Neck, NC. Get to know the difference today — schedule a visit to the Davis Community!