Let’s talk medication safety

Sgt. Sheri Tate, DRPSBy Sergeant Sheri Tate/DRPS

According to Statistics Canada, seniors are more likely to be taking controlled medications, such as narcotics. Seniors are therefore more at risk of having their medications stolen from them, or even worse, being robbed on the street after picking them up from the pharmacy. They are also more vulnerable to family, caregivers and strangers taking their medications within their own homes. Not only is it a form of elder abuse, but it is also criminal behaviour putting the senior’s health and well-being at risk.

Here are a few safety recommendations to consider.

In the course of my job, I often see medication out in the open in homes. I always recommend keeping the medication locked away or keeping it out of sight removing the opportunity for theft. Another good reason to lock away medication is because young children could mistake it for candy and we would not want them accidently ingesting it.

Some senior buildings and retirement homes have been targeted by criminals and therefore it is best to err on the side of caution. Always lock your door, do not let unknown people into your building and report suspicious activity. Seemingly good samaritans have offered to help seniors in their homes or help carry their items inside, only to use the opportunity to steal medications or other valuables. I also discourage seniors from talking about their medications in public or with strangers.

Pharmacists always suggest to seniors using compliance packaging, also called blister packs, to only take home a two-week supply of medication at a time. Delivery service is always safer than picking up your medication in person. If your different doctors request you to bring your medication to your appointment, consider just bringing your list of medications instead of the actual blister pack itself.

For seniors in long term care settings, they have strict medication policies and stringent procedures for safety to avoid and detect theft. When pain patches are administered and the senior has cognitive problems, it is always a good idea to check and make sure it has not been taken off. It doesn’t hurt to be extra vigilant with our loved ones.

The police will and do investigate crimes involving medication, such as theft, robbery and fraud. Due to the vulnerability factors, these types of crimes are very serious. Any unused medications need to be properly disposed of as soon as possible. As well, personal information and medication types should be blacked out on blister packs prior to throwing it in the garbage.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact me, Sgt. Tate, senior support coordinator for DRPS, at 905-579-1520 ext. 5624.