Seniors at risk of medication errors

By July 5, 2012Archives

Each year over 1.5 million people grow sick or experience severe injuries due to medication errors. Out of those 1.5 million, around 100,000 people die because of the medication errors. Sadly, each of those deaths could have been prevented with the proper planning. Seniors are especially at risk for medication errors, so friends and family members must take the necessary steps to protect them.

Medication errors are responsible for some of the biggest problems that seniors face. They are also the number one cause of hospital admissions for senior citizens. Research has shown that over 65% of seniors don’t take their medicine properly, and medication errors cause around 23% of nursing home admissions.

It is extremely dangerous when seniors take medication without following the dosage instructions correctly. The aging effect causes seniors to react and process medications differently, making them more vulnerable to an overdose or serious side effects. Damage done by the aging process is seen in the liver, kidneys, heart and central nervous system. Therefore, seniors should consider asking for help if they:

  • Live Alone
  • Experience problems with memory
  • Take three (or more) medications on a daily basis
  • Are under the care of multiple physicians
  • Patronize multiple pharmacies to fill prescriptions
  • Do business with multiple online and local pharmacies
  • Experience financial problems that may prevent them from filling certain prescriptions

Some of the most dangerous medication errors are seen as a result of seniors taking an incorrect dosage. For instance, an elderly person may incorrectly take a dosage amount in milligrams instead of micrograms. This would result in a dose that is 1,000 times stronger than what was intended. For example, seniors often incorrectly administer insulin because the insulin syringe is measured in units and presents difficulty in reading. Another medication error seniors often experience is incorrect frequency. An example of this situation would be if a medication is supposed to be taken twice a day, but is actually taken six times a day.

Medication errors are a very real and very dangerous problem that seniors face. Learning how to prevent them can greatly increase your loved one’s safety. Here are some important tips that you can use:

  • Keep all medications in their original bottles
  • Contact the pharmacist if there are any questions about taking the medication
  • Use only one pharmacy to fill prescriptions
  • Read the patient information sheet that comes with the medication
  • Never share medications
  • If there is any doubt about a certain medication that your loved one has been prescribed, speak with their physician or pharmacist before administering

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