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Seniors, Beware of Five Medication Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Galvin B. Kennedy
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing personal injury, pharmacy error, and overtime law
Posted on Dec 13, 2013

Did you know that about 90 percent of Americans 65-years-old and older take at least one prescription drug and that over 40 percent take five prescription medications? According to a National Institute of Health study, it appears the majority of seniors in the U.S. take a lot of medicine, and that approximately half of those who take medications take them incorrectly.

As a result, fatalities related to drugs have increased. Obviously, many drug-related fatalities result from drug abuse—such as overdosing on oxycodone or other opioid painkillers—but many fatalities occur due to medication mistakes such as misuse. Unfortunately, as seniors age and begin to take multiple medications, they can easily get their medications confused and make medication errors.

A recent article from a senior living company discussed five medication mistakes that seniors should be aware of in order to avoid prescription errors, including:

  1. Taking more medication than prescribed. This is known as overdosing, which is the main cause of medication-related fatalities. Seniors need to be aware that even over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol can be potentially fatal if too much is taken.
  2. Confusing medications. Because seniors often take multiple medications that have confusing names or names that sound-alike or look-alike, it may be easy to mix them up. For this reason, seniors should pick up each bottle and read the label or use a pill sorting system that can help prevent confusion.
  3. Taking drugs that interact with others. Because many seniors take multiple medications, they need to make sure that none of them interact with another. Any time seniors get new medications, they should ask their doctors and pharmacists to double check all their medications to ensure none of them conflict with each other.
  4. Eating foods that interact with drugs. Many people are not aware that certain foods can interact with certain medications. For example, when a senior eats foods high in vitamin K while taking a blood thinning medication, the medication may become less effective.  Additionally, some foods like grapefruit juice can affect the way drugs are metabolized by the liver.
  5. Taking medications the wrong way. There are certain medications made to be swallowed, put under the tongue to absorb slowly, or to be injected. When patients or their caregivers fail to read the directions, medications may be taken using the wrong route of administration.

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