Common Medication Mistakes
In the United States, Medication errors account for 1.3 million injuries per year. These mistakes happen anytime somebody fails to take their medicine as directed, a surprisingly commonplace occurrence, especially when someone is taking multiple medications.
Here are a few common problem areas.
Location of your medicines
As previously mentioned, it’s important to have all of your medications in one area, whether they are prescription or over the counter. You should have one drawer or cabinet that you keep all of your medications in for easy access. It may be a good idea to keep those you only take at bedtime by the nightstand.
Please note: Medications should be kept in a cool and dry place –– and never in the bathroom because moisture from the shower or bath can affect them. Keep in mind that some medicine, such as insulin, requires refrigeration.
Taking too much (or not enough) medication can lead to harmful side effects. In fact, improper dosing accounts for 60 percent of medication errors. Underdosing can leave you with pain or improperly treated conditions, including hypertension or other heart-related ailments. Overdosing, on the other hand, can be deadly if someone takes too much of a certain drug without realizing it. These can include blood thinners, sleeping pills, or anxiety medications.
One suggestion is that if you have pills that need to be split, try splitting them all at once before beginning your regimen so that you don’t forget and take too much later.
Those with memory impairment may be prone to this type of issue, as they may forget to take medication entirely or accidentally take too much of it. A pill organizer is a great way to keep track of this.
Mixing Up Medications
Prescription drugs can sometimes have similar names and packaging which may cause older adults to take the wrong medication. It is a good idea to leave them in their original packaging if they are store-bought so that you don’t mix them up.
Most medications need to be taken at certain times of the day: morning, noon, or night; further, they’re often recommended to be taken with food or milk to decrease your risk of stomach upset. Antibiotics, in particular, can cause diarrhea because they can affect your normal gut bacteria. You should try to take antibiotics with yogurt or probiotics, as these both contain good bacteria that will keep your gut healthy.
Always follow your pharmacist’s instructions as to when to take your medicines so that they do not interact negatively with each other. Make sure your pharmacist and doctor review all your medications with you to make sure they can be taken together. There are also online drug interaction checkers you can use as well.
In no case should medication ever be taken with alcohol. Alcohol often reduces their effectiveness and can even have life-threatening effects if combined with certain medications such as sleeping pills.
Expiration dates on medications mark the last day a manufacturer can guarantee potency. While the FDA found 90 percent of drugs are still potent and safe after the expiration date, it is important to see your doctor regularly and replenish medication to ensure it works as intended. Do not just assume the expired medication is still good.
FYI: If you run out of medication prematurely or unusual drowsiness occurs (that’s not associated with the medication itself), it may be a sign of improper dosing.