How to monitor, secure and properly dispose of medications
Many of us keep prescription and over-the-counter medications in our medicine cabinets or bathroom vanities. Often, if it’s medicine that we take for a short period of time, we forget about them. It’s important to track these medications and to take stock periodically.
- Make an inventory. Studies show that many people over 65 take between two and seven prescription drugs a day. List all prescriptions in your home, including over-the-counter medications. Include the date of purchase and quantity, and recommended dosage. Never increase or decrease doses without talking to your doctor. This can help you track what you’re taking, how often and in what dosage amount, and if you list the expiration date, it will let you know when to discard the medicine.
- Keep all medications out of reach of all young children and adolescents. This is a no-brainer, but for us older adults, it can be easy to forget because we may not have youngsters visiting often.
- Track expired medicines. Many medications are good beyond the pharmacist’s “discard by” date, but some should never be used after their expiration dates. Check with your pharmacist if you’re unsure, but many drugs lose their effectiveness after they’ve expired, including oral nitroglycerin, anticonvulsants and warfarin. Note that the discard by and expiration dates are usually different. The pharmacist adds the discard by date, which is usually one year after the prescription has been filled. The expiration date is stamped on the side or bottom of the prescription container. Make a note of both dates, and discard medications once they’re no longer needed or they’ve expired.
- Dispose of unused or expired medications properly. Never flush them down toilets as many studies have shown that they can contaminate the local water supply. Mix them with used cat litter, coffee grounds, or sawdust, and then place it all into a tightly sealed bag or container and put in the trash.