Awareness prevents errors in medications

You can never be too cautious when it comes to taking, managing, storing and disposing of medications.

This is especially important as we get older as one in three Americans who use prescription medicines is an older adult. Further complicating matters are over-the-counter medications, supplements and multiple prescribers and prescriptions filled by different pharmacies. These issues lead to medication mismanagement, misuse and safety issues.

The Ohio Department of Aging reports that research has shown that three out of five older adults take their prescriptions improperly, including skipping doses, not filling prescriptions and not following the prescriber’s directions.

The impact of the misuse or mismanagement of properly taking prescription medicine could affect your overall health and wellbeing.

It also accounts for 30 percent of hospitalizations among seniors are due to adverse drug reactions, which is one of the greatest health threats to seniors. Medication impacts our lives whether it’s for preventive measures, treatment of a diagnosed disease, chronic disease management, or palliative care.

Let’s face it, we’re not all 100 percent compliant when it comes to taking medicine as directed, making and keeping medical appointments or exercising and eating healthy.

Being more cognizant of this is a part of healthy aging.

How many of you keep a list a medication and know the milligrams and when to take it? Are you supposed to take it with food? Is the medicine affected by any supplements or alcohol? Do you know the generic name of the medicine? If you are hospitalized and given a prescription upon discharge, is it a different dose than what you already have at home?

The importance of these questions can directly impact hospital readmissions. Most people do not like being hospitalized. You want to go home but may not feel well enough to understand discharge instructions or recall medications prescribed during a hospital stay.

Medication lists on discharge may be long and confusing, often misunderstood and often underemphasized in the chaos of illness or injury. Errors range from overdose to taking inconsistent dosages to omitting doses to irregular dosing schedules.

So, what do we do about it? You could sign up for free workshops through the Area Agency on Aging’s Wellness Program.

These free classes are offered throughout the area, and include chronic disease self-management, diabetes education, fall prevention and chronic pain management. They are meant to empower you to take control of your chronic disease as opposed to your chronic disease controlling you. They are peer oriented and offer education and suggestions for empowerment.

Other safety tips include:

l Prevent others from intentionally or unintentionally being exposed to medications, especially opioids;

l Make your pharmacist part of your health care plan and talk to her / him about your medications, special instructions for storage, side effects, and provide a list of medications for a regular review. If possible, try to use one pharmacy for having your prescriptions filled;

l Dispose of expired or unused medications in a safe and proper manner, including gels, chewable, liquids, creams, eye or ear drops, nasal sprays, inhalers, vitamins and dietary supplements.

Operation: EMPTY Medicine Cabinet in Trumbull County last week collected and properly disposed of 164 pounds of medicine.

If you need a list of disposal sites, go to the websites or call your county Mental Health and Recovery Boards. You also can check with your pharmacy, police departments and local government offices for disposal collection boxes.

Everyone needs to be his or her own advocate when it comes to medication safety.

Lisa Solley is the director of communications at the Area Agency on Aging 11 Inc. For referrals or services, call the main office at 330-505-2300. Email Solley at