Expired Medications Carry Certain Risks for Seniors

Author: Debbie Humphrey

I recently went in search of triple antibiotic ointment for a minor wound I sustained while doing yard work. As I rummaged through our medicine cabinet, I found everything but the ointment!

As I perused the items along the shelves of the cabinet, I realized from aged packaging and expiration dates that many of them had been there far too long. Time tends to get away from me, and years can go by without a single thought about the prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) products I have been storing for whatever purpose I had gotten them in the first place. Sound familiar?

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered an awareness day in April that is focused on this very topic. The third Friday in April – this year, April 16th – is National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day.

Even though I took care of this when I realized how derelict I had been with keeping my own medicine cabinet updated, it became a teachable moment for me worth sharing with you, because expired medications carry certain risks for seniors.

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), “Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance. Once the expiration date has passed there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe and effective. If your medicine has expired, do not use it.”

Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said, “Many people don’t know how to properly clean out their medicine cabinets. Failing to safely dispose of old medications, especially opioids, all too often leads to dangerous drugs ending up in the wrong hands. The CDC reports that 50,000 young children end up in emergency rooms each year because they got into medicines while an adult wasn’t looking.”

You don’t have to have an actual medicine cabinet. Some people, especially seniors, use a kitchen cabinet or nightstand in which to conveniently store their meds. No matter where prescriptions and OTC’s are kept, seniors and/or their trusted family members or caregivers should carefully examine labels for expiration dates and have a safe disposal plan in place for discarding them.

The beauty of National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day is it perfectly coincides with the 19th Annual Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Saturday, April 24, from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM.

I strongly encourage seniors, their family members or caregivers to carefully inspect medicine cabinets – and any other areas where prescriptions and OTC’s are kept – and check the expiration dates. Bag the meds that need to be discarded and plan your safe drop-off at a local prescription drug collection site. (You can drop-off OTC’s and veterinarian-prescribed meds, too).

Home Helpers® caregivers are available to provide help for seniors living alone. Professional caregivers keep seniors safe and well by offering medication reminders and carefully monitoring medicine cabinets for expired products. I gladly offer a FREE consultation to assess and match one of my bonded, insured experienced caregivers to assist with keeping you or a loved one safe, happy and well!

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for the fifth consecutive year: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539


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