Talking to your parents about drugs
Everyone knows they’re supposed to talk to their kids about drugs, but most adults don’t think to talk to their parents about which drugs the parents are on.
The majority of senior citizens are on at least one prescription medication, according to Dr. Marijka Grey, regional medical director for WellSpan Health.
“It’s rare to find someone over the age of 65 who’s not on some prescription medication,” she said. “If they’re not, then they’re probably not seeing a doctor regularly.”
As people get older, the number of medications they’re on grows, Grey said. This can lead to confusion about how often the prescriptions should be taken, as well as which ones a person is on.
Tracking: Adult children of senior citizens can step in and help create a regular schedule for their parents to follow for taking their medications.
“The first key is knowing what medications they’re on and why,” Grey said. “Then you need to know how often they take them. Some can be once a day. Some can be two or three times a day. It can get confusing.”
Jenny Nace, information specialist for the York County Agency on Aging, said pill boxes can help organize and keep track of what drugs seniors need to take and when. Becoming familiar with the diagnoses and medical conditions their parents have is also important for knowing which medications might interact with another one and what side effects can come from different medications.
"Some options include medication planners for daily or weekly use," Nace said. "They can be filled by the adult child and then checked to make sure that the meds were taken. They could call and provide reminders to take meds and monitor the need for medication refills. Attending doctor appointments and making sure they have regular blood work and follow up are other options."
Up to date: Making sure medications are up to date is also a key for keeping track of a regimen.
“A lot of times, people will hold on to medications past their expiration,” Grey said. “They say they’re keeping it because they don’t know if they’ll need to take it again or if the symptom it was treating will come back. You want to make sure they don’t grab the wrong bottle in the middle of the night.”
Disposal: Disposing of prescription medications that are unused is fairly easy, Grey said. Frequently, local law enforcement agencies will have “Take-Back Days,” events where people can drop off their unused medications.
The York County District Attorney’s Office with the Mason-Dixon Area Anti-Drug Task Force is hosting a take back day event from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Individuals can bring their unused medications to Citizens Volunteer Fire Co. in Fawn Grove, 171 S. Market St. No syringes will be accepted.
Also, at least 15 York County police departments have boxes at their headquarters where residents can drop off unused prescriptions any day.
“Our goal is to keep the medications out of ground water and out of innocent hands and abusers,” Chief County Detective Darryl Albright of the York County DA’s Office said in a Monday news release.
Opiates: Many senior citizens are taking opiates for legitimate reasons, Grey said. Some can’t take Tylenol or acetaminophen because of liver issues. Others can’t take NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium because of stomach issues.
These are the types of medications that should be disposed of quickly after they are no longer necessary, Grey said.
About 40 medications can be flushed down the toilet, according to the Federal Drug Administration. A full list can be found on the FDA website.
Others can be disposed of in the household trash if there are no medicine take-back programs available in the area. The FDA recommends mixing the medicines with dirt, cat litter or used coffee grounds without crushing or breaking the tablets or capsules.
The mixture can then be placed into a container such as a sealed plastic bag and thrown into the household trash. The FDA also recommends scratching all personal information from prescription medication labels and then disposing of those.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, proper disposal of these medications can deter misuse, prevent poisoning of children and pets and avoid health problems from accidentally taking the wrong or outdated medication.
Seniors: Grey said the easiest way to approach the subject of prescription medications with senior citizens is to address it in a straightforward fashion.
"You have to reinforce that this is about them living a longer and healthier life," she said.
— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.