During the third week of March each year, National Poison Prevention Week is held for the purpose of increasing awareness about the threat of household poisons which can prove deadly, especially to seniors and to children. In Water Valley and elsewhere around the country, a great many people will be taking steps to make sure their households are made safe from the possibility of accidental ingestion of poisons. Senior home care professionals are especially aware of the danger to some of their charges because it’s very easy for a senior to become disoriented and accidentally swallow extremely harmful substances.
These kinds of poisons don’t exist solely under your kitchen sink, but can also be included in your medicine cabinet, and that’s an even likelier source for seniors, who might mistakenly ingest the wrong medications or who might take extra doses of the same medication by mistake. Because seniors are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of consuming excess medications which can prove poisonous, every precaution should be taken to safeguard them from this potential threat.
Risk from medications
Many seniors are obliged to take multiple medications for health reasons, and those seniors who do take several medications daily are at greatly increased risk for accidental poisoning. Some seniors even receive prescriptions from several different physicians, and having a number of these pills to take every day makes them much more vulnerable to accidental poisoning.
There are several steps you can take as a caregiver to help avoid these situations, including maintaining an accurate list of all medications prescribed for a senior citizen under your care. This list should contain the drug name, dosage, and the recommended frequency, and the list can be consulted in the event of an emergency for comparison purposes.
If you have a senior under your care, you should make sure that you accurately communicate to a physician all the current medications that your loved one or patient is currently taking. This will help reduce the chances of any kind of drastic interaction between drugs. It’s also a good idea when you’re visiting a physician to ask about why the medication has to be taken, whether or not specific foods or medicines should be avoided, and what the possible side effects are of taking this particular medication.
Frequency of senior poisonings
In terms of the number of actual poisonings among seniors, they are far less frequent than the number of poisonings for children and other groups, but the real danger for seniors is that they are at a much higher risk of mortality. Because of age-related physiological conditions in their renal functions and hepatic functions, seniors are much more likely to be significantly harmed by an accidental ingestion of poison.
Younger individuals who accidentally swallow poisons are much better equipped to physically recover from the event than an older person is, and that is what represents the biggest danger to seniors. This makes it important that all possible steps be taken to prevent the possibility of accidental ingestion of poisons or multiple medication dosages by seniors.
Some of the most common situations leading to accidental poisonings are forgetting to take scheduled medications and then doubling up, and storing certain medications in the wrong container because the original one is unavailable for some reason. In many cases, seniors simply forget whether or not they have taken their daily medications, and take them multiple times during the same day, thus potentially creating an emergency situation.
Preventing accidental medication ingestion
It’s a good idea to purchase all prescriptions needed by a senior under your care from the same pharmacy because knowledgeable pharmacists there will probably be aware of any possible interactions between medications being taken by a specific patient. It might also be worth your while to maintain a journal of any symptoms or reactions a senior has after taking specific medications.
If there are any particularly uncomfortable side effects being experienced, these should be discussed with a physician, so that a possible adjustment can be made, or an alternative medication can be prescribed. For the sake of safety, a set routine should be observed when taking medications, since this will reduce the likelihood of missing those dosages, and then taking extra medications to make up for it.
If it is ever suspected that a senior under your care has become poisoned by taking medications, the family physician should be consulted immediately. If it is not possible to contact a doctor, the next step taken should be to contact the local Poison Control Center, by dialing a toll-free number which is 800-222-1222. The vast majority of staff members at any Poison Control Center are pharmacists and/or healthcare professionals, who are well trained in what to do during the event of an accidental poisoning. Any suspected poisoning should be reported immediately so that recovery steps can be more effective.