Medication Storage and Disposal Tips

Medications-300x211.jpgCaregivers often focus on making sure that their patients take all of the proper medications are taken at the proper time, and that is very, very important. However, they should also be aware of the importance of properly storing and disposing of medications and medical supplies, especially if they care for elderly individuals who have a form of dementia. If a person with dementia stumbles upon medicine left out in the open, he or she may consume mediation at an inappropriate time or in dangerous amounts, or may consume expired medication that may in turn produce unfortunate side effects.

The following tips may help to prevent accidents such as those described above.

Take it out of the bathroom. As might be expected, medicine cabinets are often the storage area of choice for most people; however, most medications need to be in a cool, dry place. The moisture content in the typical bathroom is not conducive to keeping medicine fresh and may cause it to expire more quickly.

Lock it up. If there is any chance that a family member may consume medication improperly, keep the medication locked away. This may make it more inconvenient for the caregiver to access it, but that is better than letting an unfortunate accident occur.

Keep meds separated. Medications should not be in cabinets where they may be confused with other items (such as food products); however, medications for different individuals should also be segregated. Even if you don't keep the medications in separate cabinets, be sure to at least use different boxes or shelves.

Label them. All medications should be very clearly labeled.

Childproof it. Those sometimes annoying caps can act as deterrents to accidental dosing by an adult with memory issues.

Throw it out.  Expired medication should be disposed of in the garbage (not recycling) or at a community drug take-back program. Drugs should be taken out of their original packaging. Do not flush medications down the toilet.

Be very careful of sharps. If needles or syringes are involved in administration of medication, make sure that new ones are stored in a safe, secure place. Accidental punctures need to be avoided. Used sharps should be immediately and safely disposed of. There are several options, including plastic storage containers and devices that destroy used needles. Some containers that actually melt the sharps can be disposed of in the garbage (but NOT in a recycling bin). Otherwise, sharps need to be disposed of at a hospital or clinic or through an approved mail order system.

Taking care of elderly individuals by keeping an eye on medications and supplies can add another layer of work, but the safety issue involved makes it essential.

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