Taking Medications at Home

 

My elderly mother has a hard time swallowing her medicine. Can I just crush her pills and mix them into her food? Or can she chew them? That depends on what she is taking. Some medicines are specially prepared to deliver the medicine to your body slowly, over time.

Many medicines come in different strengths. For example, a medicine may come in both a 10 mg and a 20 mg tablet. Surprisingly, the higher dose often costs about the same as the lower dose. If the medicine is too expensive for some people, doctors may prescribe the higher dose and direct them to take half a tablet for each dose. However, splitting tablets may be risky for several reasons.

Are you taking charge of your medicines? If not, you can be putting your health at risk. Proper medication administration is a three tier effort that includes your physician, your pharmacist and yourself. Knowing about the drugs you take today can save you a lot of grief tomorrow.

Some medicines come as a nasal spray. While a spray in each nostril is the typical way to take a single dose, there are some exceptions. Some medicines are meant to be given as a single spray into one nostril for each dose. One prime example is calcitonin salmon (Fortical or Micalcin), a medicine used to treat women with osteoporosis (bone thinning) after menopause.

Your pharmacy may provide you with some prescription medicines still in their original boxes. These include ointments and creams, asthma inhalers, certain eye and ear drops, and even pills. Your pharmacist may then place a label with directions for taking or using this medicine on the outside box, not on the medicine container inside.

Many people with type 2 diabetes take more than one insulin product--a long-acting insulin and a short-acting insulin. These people should not store their insulin vials inside the original cardboard boxes after the products have been opened. If the vials are accidentally returned to the wrong box after being used, the wrong type of insulin may be taken. This could lead to a serious medical emergency.

Plants are a common cause of poisoning. Both indoor and outdoor plants can be poisonous. Some plants can cause a skin rash, others can cause an upset stomach if ingested and still others can cause more serious problems by harming your heart, kidneys or other organs. Below is a partial list of indoor and outdoor plants that are considered poisonous.

If you take Coumadin (warfarin) to prevent blood clots, you probably know that you need periodic blood tests to make sure the dose of your medicine is correct. After your doctor reviews the results of these tests, he may ask you to take more or less of the medicine. Sometimes your doctor may even tell you to stop taking the medicine for a few days, or until your next blood test.

Who would ever make that mistake? Well, people do. A father told the babysitter to put his son's ear drops in his right ear before bed, and the careful babysitter did just that. She found ear drops labeled "put two drops in right ear" in the medicine cabinet, and instilled the ear drops into the child's right ear. But the family's dog also had a bottle of ear drops, which were the drops the babysitter used. The son's ear drops were in the refrigerator. Luckily, the child was not harmed by the dog's ear drops.

There are a few pills that you can take only once or twice a week, which is quite a convenience compared to most medicines. But harmful mistakes may happen because your doctor and your pharmacist are mostly used to medicines that are taken daily, not weekly. They’ve occasionally been known to accidentally write or type “daily” instead of “weekly.” If you take weekly pills every day by accident, you could be harmed. Sadly, some people have even died.

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

Show Your Support!

ISMP needs your help to continue our life saving work