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Medicine Safety For Older Adults

For fourteen years I worked at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information center (APDIC) as their nurse health educator.  In my opinion, this service is one of the best kept public health secrets in the country.  Our poison center serves the entire state outside of Maricopa County. Banner Health Poison & Drug Information Center covers that county. Besides being a 24-hour free hotline for poisonings, the APDIC provides information about poison prevention and medications. This center has specially qualified pharmacists answering the phone. They have to take a certification exam every 6 years to be qualified for this position. These people are amazingly dedicated experts. It was an honor and a wonderful experience to work there.

Why would I write a blog about this on a home care service for seniors? It’s because seniors are at very high risk for different kinds of poisonings. Due to diminishing eyesight, possibly memory issues end undetected dementia, seniors can make  mistakes with look-alike products and medication errors.

Some background information from the APDIC website:

“In general, the older we get, the more health concerns we have, the more doctors we see, and the more medicines we need. Most adults 65 years and older regularly take at least five different medicines, and most older adults taking prescription medicines are also using over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, or both.

  • Medication mishaps like interactions and side effects caused over 700,000 emergency room visits each year.

  • Older adults are twice as likely as others to visit the emergency room for medication problems.

  • And nearly seven times more likely to be hospitalized after an emergency visit!

Medication Safety Tips

  • Be familiar with all of your medications. Discuss them with your doctor and be sure about side effects, uses and interactions.

  • Read the entire label on over the counter medications. Know how much you can take and when.

  • Keep a written list of all the medication you’re taking so that you can discuss them whenever you have a doctor visit.

  • Keep all of your medications Out Of Reach of children and pets. Dispose of all unwanted medications safely.

  • Have the poison center free hotline number  available to call 24/7.

  • Have doctors’ and pharmacy’s numbers at hand, possibly written on your medication list.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers developed the “Are you taking your medicines safely” program with a team of professional poisoning prevention educators from America’s poison control centers with support from Johnson and Johnson Consumer Inc. This 60-minute conversation-based program is intended for adults 65+living independently without nursing care, and both mentally and physically able to manage their own medicines without assistance. Contact your local poison control center to find out more about in-person programming and medicine safety resources.

Remember, 1800 222 1222 is a free 24/7 hotline for emergency poisonings and also for questions and concerns about poison safety and medications. This number works anywhere in the country.

Outside Maricopa County

For Maricopa County

For the national website