Preventing Medication Errors: Top 7 Tips for Older Adults & Caregivers in Northern Kentucky

Spilled Pill BottleWhen you pick-up a new medication from your favorite pharmacy in Covington or Cincinnati, how often do you try to pronounce the name?  Tricky isn’t it?  Multiply that by two or three additional prescriptions. All being picked up at the same time. It sets the stage for confusion and mistakes.  Medication errors are common among seniors. And it’s no wonder. Multiple medications.  Confusing names.  Different dosages at different times of day.  All of these are likely causes if you or your aging loved one accidentally take the wrong medicine or an improper dose. Too much or too little of any medication may cause serious harm. 

Ways to Prevent Medication Errors Among Seniors

Medication errors are common but preventable mistakes. Here are a couple of ideas to help caregivers in greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky keep prescriptions and dosages straight:

1.     Fill prescriptions at the same pharmacy every time whenever possible. When you build a relationship with a pharmacy, they often have computerized systems in place to alert you to potential conflicts among medications.  The pharmacist can also help to answer questions and make you aware of any potential side effects.

2.     Make a list.  Check it twice.  Be sure to include all prescriptions, over-the-counter meds and vitamins. Keep that list with you. If you are a caregiver, be sure to have a current list of your loved one’s medications in your purse or wallet.

3.     Be aware of the potential side effects of each medication. That includes possible interactions with other medications. Older adults process medications differently so don’t be afraid to call your physician or your pharmacist with questions about side effects that you don’t find on the list.

4.     Create a medication chart.  Include the name, color and shape of each pill. If you are able to take a picture to attach to the chart that can be especially helpful. Be sure your chart includes the start date of the prescription, the dosage and frequency.  You should also note the reason the prescription was ordered.  Finally, include any special instructions or side effects provided by the pharmacy.

5.     Store all medications properly.  Throw out old or expired medications.

6.     NEVER put more than one type of medication in the same pill bottle. And never put a medication in a bottle that is labeled for a different prescription.

7.     If you use a daily pill box, be sure to leave at least one pill in the original container so you can recognize which pills are which.

We hope these quick tips will help keep you or an aging loved one from making a mistake with medications.

Are you a Cincinnati or northern Kentucky caregiver? Do you have any suggestions that we missed for safely managing meds?