Pharmacist Crystal Abernathy recalled an elderly patient who came to her hospital’s emergency department carrying dozens of prescription medication containers.
“He was on 23 medications,” Abernathy told attendees at a recent Memorial Hospital forum on medication mistakes. “But when I looked at all the bottles, I found that five of them were for the exact same medication, but in different dosages.”
Had the patient been taking all five, not realizing they were the same medication? Or had perhaps different doctors unknowingly prescribed the same medication?
Those are just a couple of the ways medication mix-ups may occur. It’s estimated that 1.5 million medication mistakes happen in the United States each year, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths. Many of those impacted are seniors, who tend to take more prescription drugs than other age groups.
Here are a few ways to reduce the chance of medication mishaps:
Make a list: Make a list of all current medications, including the name, dosage and frequency. Be sure to include over-the-counter medications and supplements, as these may cause negative reactions when taken with certain prescription drugs. Give a copy to your doctors and let family members or caregivers know where you keep this list, which should be updated periodically to add or remove medications as needed.
Take advantage of new technologies: A number of free smart-phone applications allow users to create a medication list that is stored on your cell phone. Automatic medication dispensers are also available, increasing the likelihood that seniors will take their medications correctly.
Stick with one pharmacy: If possible, get all prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy to reduce the chance of medication duplication or adverse drug reactions.
Consider other options: Consult your physician to see if a non-medication alternative – such as physical therapy instead of pain medication – might be appropriate.
Communicate: Make sure your doctors, family members and caregivers know what medications you are taking. While only medical professionals may administer medications, non-medical home caregivers can remind seniors to take their medications, further reducing the likelihood of medication mistakes.
Jennifer Logue is the owner of FirstLight HomeCare, a non-medical home care company serving residents of St. Johns and Duval counties. For more information, call (904) 770-3220 or visit http://www.firstlighthomecare.com.