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Manage Your Medicine Cabinet Wisely | Generations Home Care
Several blister packets filled with medicine.

Keeping track of more than one prescription is hard. But what about keeping track of more than five? For over half of seniors, juggling that many medications or more is a daily reality. By the time we reach our later years, we often end up with pill bottles crowding our bathroom cabinets. Whether they’re active prescriptions, medicine you haven’t needed in a while, or that old bottle of aspirin with the peeling label you bought back in 1992, the clutter makes it even harder to keep track of which medications we need–and which might actually harm us. 

Saturday, October 23, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. It’s an excellent opportunity to dispose of unused prescription medicines that you no longer need. The day is also a reminder to get educated about the best way to stay safe with your medicine. With accidental overdose a serious concern for seniors, it’s always a good time to ensure you’re handling your prescriptions properly.

Prescription Misuse Is A Real Danger

Getting older often involves managing a variety of health concerns. Many seniors take potent prescriptions to keep up their quality of life. Unfortunately, the strength of those medications means they can be dangerous or addictive when misused. Adverse life events such as the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, or moving into a nursing home can also increase a person’s risk of prescription medicine abuse. 

Two of the most commonly abused prescription drugs are benzodiazepines and opioids/narcotics. Benzodiazepines treat anxiety, insomnia, and pain, while opioids and narcotics help manage pain. If you’ve been prescribed either type of medication, no doubt your doctor has already stressed the importance of proper use. But staying vigilant over the course of an extended prescription, and keeping track of old medications once you no longer need them, makes an already tricky task far more complicated. 

Because a person’s ability to process toxins decreases as they age, the risk of accidental overdoses increases for seniors. Adverse medicine reactions are also a problem when multiple prescriptions interact in your body to create harmful side effects. Carefully organizing your necessary medicines while getting rid of anything you don’t need is the key to avoiding accidental overdoses.

What To Do With Unneeded Medication

If you’re looking into a disorganized medicine cabinet and feeling overwhelmed, disposing of any medication you no longer need (and won’t need again in the future) is a good place to begin. Start by making a list of your active prescriptions. You should also include any over-the-counter medicine that you want to keep stocked. From there, go through and pick out any medications you know you won’t ever need to use. Make sure to read labels carefully and ensure that you’re not getting rid of anything you might need, or keeping something potentially harmful. Once you’ve picked out any unnecessary medications, you can look for a local Controlled Substance Public Disposal where you can safely get rid of them.

You can also dispose of some medicines at home, but make sure to do so correctly. EPA guidelines say not to flush medication down the toilet or drain unless the patient information says that’s acceptable. Instead, take your prescription drugs out of the container, mix them with an undesirable substance like used coffee grounds or cat litter, then seal that mixture in a separate container and dispose of it normally. Be sure to conceal your personal information on the drug’s original packaging before discarding it.

Once you’ve gotten rid of unwanted medications, it’s a good idea to go through what you have left and make sure that it’s still okay to use. Though medicine can take a while to expire–in fact, some pills retain 90 percent of their effectiveness even after four decades of proper storage–other kinds might have a shorter shelf life. Avoid keeping liquid medicines past their expiration date. Also remember that antibacterial ointments are likely more effective when replaced within a year or so of opening. 

Get Help Managing Your Medicine

With most seniors taking multiple medications simultaneously, keeping track of them can be a massive job. An in-home caregiver can assist in organizing and maintaining your medicine cabinet to help ensure you stay safe and healthy. No one wants to spend all day squinting at hard-to-read labels on worn-out pill bottles. With a caregiver’s helping hands (and eyes), you won’t have to. 

Caregivers can keep track of expiration dates and medicines you’re no longer using. They can also help you go through the proper steps to dispose of them. If you struggle sticking to a prescription schedule, a caregiver can help you create a daily medication reminder plan. And when it comes time to visit your doctor or get a prescription refilled, in-home caregivers can get you to and from the doctor’s office or pharmacy without you ever having to get behind the wheel. If you want to make your life a little easier and safer by no longer worrying about managing your medicine cabinet, an in-home caregiver could be the advocate you need.

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.


About the author - Josh Friesen

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