The week of March 20th thru the 26th in 2022 will be a week-long time for raising awareness about poisoning and how it can impact people. In Oxford and elsewhere, the focus for the week will be on preventing the possibility of accidental poisoning in the elderly and in all people. Given that the effects of poisoning can be extremely severe and dangerous, this is a serious issue that should be given appropriate attention during National Poison Prevention Week and beyond. Here are some ways that accidental poisoning might occur, and how good senior home care can help to prevent them.
Risk of poisoning for the elderly
About 90% of all poisonings occur in the home, generally in the areas of the bathroom, the kitchen, or one of the bedrooms. Elderly persons are particularly susceptible to being poisoned because they are frequently left alone for long periods of time without any kind of monitoring. If they do have some kind of accident with regard to poison, they may not realize it so they can call for help. This will generally be due to ignorance of the situation, or to feelings of shame about having done something they feel is not smart.
As a general rule, people who get older will generally be seeing doctors more frequently and will require more medications. Most people over the age of 65 are obliged to take at least five different prescriptions every day, supplemented by over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. All these medications are necessary to maintain your elderly loved one’s health, but every time a new medication is added to the list, there’s a greater risk for mistakes.
Every year there are more than 700,000 visits necessary to the emergency room to deal with side effects and interactions caused by drugs and accidental poisonings. Older adults are twice as likely to visit the ER for problems related to medications and poisons. They are also seven times more likely to require a hospital visit after such incidents.
Other poisoning risks
Medications aren’t the only possibility for accidental poisonings with elderly people. Household cleaners, sprays, and chemicals can all have powerfully negative impacts on a person exposed to them. Poison can actually be anything ingested by a person in the wrong way or in the wrong amount. Some poisons are even extremely harmful just by coming into contact with your skin or your eyes, while others can be toxic if swallowed or breathed in. Poison comes in various forms such as solids like pain pills, liquids such as bleach or household cleaners, spray cleaners, and gases such as carbon monoxide. All four of these forms must be closely monitored in the household, and seniors should be given a clear understanding of the dangers associated with them.
Keeping seniors safe from poisoning
If you have an elderly loved one living at home, it’s very important to ensure their safety by taking extra precautions with regard to agents that could potentially poison them. All medicines should be kept in locked cabinets, or at least out of the reach of your elderly loved ones. Medications should be stored in their original containers with proper labeling, and prescription medication should never be shared. If you’re concerned about possible drug interactions, you can call the Poison Helpline to check on them.
It’s a good idea to keep the phone number for the Poison Control Center handy by the phone in case of an emergency. A carbon monoxide alarm should be installed in each room of your house so that gas can be detected at its earliest presence. You should make sure that all your fireplaces, furnaces, and wood-burning stoves are functioning properly throughout the year, and that they present no potential for danger.
All household products and medicines should be stored in a different place than you keep food supplies. Whenever your elderly loved one takes medications, be sure that the lights are on, that they’re wearing their glasses, and that they pay attention to labels before taking pills. If your loved one has a problem with being forgetful, it’s a good idea to establish some alarms for medication reminders. It’s also good practice to use a pillbox or pill separator so that daily doses of medications can be adhered to.
Make sure to only use household products according to the instructions. If you mix these products, it’s very possible for dangerous gases to be emitted. Finally, keep a current list of all medications being taken by your elderly loved one. This includes prescription medications, OTC medicines, vitamins, and dietary supplements. Make sure you have this list handy whenever you take your senior to a doctor or when going to the pharmacy. Obviously, you won’t be able to prevent every single possibility of poisoning with your loved one. However, if you observe some of the precautions identified above, you should be able to eliminate most threats to the health and welfare of your elderly loved one.