How to Avoid Medication Mix-Ups

I often fill my mother’s pillbox for her and am always surprised at the number of medications she takes. I do my best to organize them but worry about her taking them correctly and wonder what would happen if she mixed them up. It appears we have good reason for concern. So how do you avoid medication mix-ups?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests four visits to the ER per 1,000 adults annually are for adverse drug effects. Currently, almost 60 percent of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, and nearly 20 percent are taking more than five prescriptions medicines. Add in over-the-counter medicines, and you have a huge potential for side effects, drug-drug interactions, and negative outcomes.

How Can You Prevent Medication Errors?

The FDA makes the following suggestions:

  • Know the various risks and causes for medication errors.
  • Find out what drug you’re taking and what it is for. Rather than simply letting the doctor write you a prescription and send you on your way, be sure to ask the name of the drug and the purpose of the drug.
  • Find out how to take the drug and make sure you understand the directions. Ask if the medicine needs to be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Check the container’s label every time you take a drug. This is especially important if you are taking several drugs because it will lower your risk of accidentally taking the wrong medicine.
  • Keep drugs stored in their original containers. Many pills look alike, so keeping them in their original containers will help know the name of the drug and how to take them. If you are having trouble keeping multiple medications straight, ask your doctor or pharmacist about helpful aids.
  • Keep an updated list of all medications taken for health reasons, including OTC drugs, supplements, medicinal herbs, and other substances. Give a copy of this list to your healthcare provider.
  • Be aware of the risk of drug/drug or drug/food interactions.
  • If in doubt or you have questions about your medication, ask your pharmacist or other healthcare provider.
  • Report suspected medication errors to MedWatch.

What is Poly Pharmacy?

The use of multiple medicines is common in the older population with multimorbidity (two or more chronic conditions), as one or more medicines may be used to treat each condition. 

It’s common for the average American to see several different doctors for various conditions, and for each doctor to prescribe a particular medication. In general, there’s a real risk for poor coordination of care among primary care doctors and specialists. This can lead to having multiple drugs prescribed for similar ailments. In addition, the availability of over-the-counter therapies presents the opportunity for even more drug interactions. Your doctors might not be aware of all these, if they don’t know you’re taking a particular OTC medication in conjunction with prescription medications

Using multiple pharmacies can also exacerbate this problem as potential interactions may not be known or discussed with the patient.

At Hurley Elder Care Law, our unique life care planning model includes a holistic view of our clients’ financial, legal and care related issues. We help our client families identify the best options to keep their loved ones as safe as possible. Call us today at 404-843-0121.

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