The end of summer is always a great time for caregivers and seniors to go through and see if they have any medications that should be thrown away because they are too old or no longer taken. On bottles of prescription medications, the label will most often tell you when the medication needs to be discarded using an expiration date. When you are looking for the expiration date on over-the-counter medications or sample medications, it is often printed on the label under “EXP,” or it may be stamped into the bottom or side of the bottle, carton or the crimp of the tube. For medications that have no expiration date, it is best to throw the bottle out unless you know when it was purchased.
As time goes by, medications may end up losing their potency, especially if they are kept in a warm, moist bathroom cabinet. In some rare instances, outdated medications can become toxic to seniors. For example, taking tetracycline after the expiration date can cause serious kidney problems.
In the past, most seniors were told to simply flush their old medicines down the toilet. This was so children or animals would not find the medication in the trash. Today however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not recommend this practice. The main reason for the change in practice is that sewage plants are often not able to clean all traces of medication out of the water. This can cause serious harm to fish and wildlife.
So, what can caregivers do to help seniors with their old medicine? The following three steps are able to make a huge difference: