Common Medication Mistakes
In the United States, Medication errors account for 1.3 million injuries per year. Medication mistakes happen anytime somebody fails to take their medication as directed, a surprisingly commonplace occurrence, especially when someone is taking multiple medications.
Here are a few common medication mistakes:
Location of your medicines
It is 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 so that you do not lose them and so that you have easy access to them. However, if there are medications you take only at bedtime, you can keep those by the nightstand. Please note: medications should be kept in a cool and dry place––never in the bathroom because moisture from the shower or bath can affect your medicines. (Keep in mind some medicines such as insulin require refrigeration.)
Taking too much (or not enough) medication can lead to harmful side-effects. In fact, improper dosing accounts for 60% of medication errors. Underdosing can leave you with improperly treated conditions such as pain or other ailments such as hypertension or heart conditions. Overdosing, on the other hand, can be deadly if someone takes too much of a certain drug without realizing it, especially medications such as blood thinners, sleeping pills, or anxiety medications. A good idea is that if your pills need to be split, then split them all at once before beginning the 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 are to be taken at certain times of the day: morning, noon, night, or with food or milk as to not upset your stomach. In particular, antibiotics can give you diarrhea because they also affect your normal gut bacteria. You should always take antibiotics with yogurt or probiotics, as these both contain good bacteria that will keep your gut healthy.
Always follow the instructions as to when to take your medicines so that they do not interact negatively with each other. Make sure your pharmacist and doctor go over all your medications with you to make sure they can all 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 the effectiveness of medications 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 the doctor regularly and replenish medication to ensure it works as intended. Do not just assume the expired medication is still good.
Tip: Signs such as running out of medication pre-maturely or drowsiness may be a sign of improper dosing.