Mom saves old medications and keeps taking them. Is this dangerous?

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Q: My mom doesn’t take her medication as prescribed. She saves old meds and continues to take them. I think she is taking 3 blood pressure meds. She lives with me, but does not want to give me power of attorney. What can I do?

A: Sometimes it is difficult to help others when legal barriers exist. There are, however, several approaches that you may take. Even though you are not a POA or a medical surrogate, you can make an appointment with your mother's doctor who is prescribing the medications.

While the prescriber cannot divulge medical information about your mother, he/she can listen to your concerns about your mother's possible use of old medications or overmedication. The physician may then address with your eldelry mother the importance of complying with medications orders and adhering to the orders as they are written; and using the right medication, taken the right way for the correct length of time.

You may also discuss your concerns with your mother's pharmacist. They must adhere to the same privacy rules, but may be able to speak to your mother in the same way. The pharmacist can also verify with the prescribing physician, if indeed, an order is to be continued or stopped. Blood pressure as well as several other medical conditions may require 3-4 medications from different therapeutic classes which need to be closely managed.

Sometimes seniors may just misunderstand medication use or may get confused when verbal changes are made in their medication order. I would ask her prescriber if they would write all new and change of orders for your mother, such as: Lisinopril 5mg one tablet daily, stop HCTZ.

I also encourage you to try to get your mother to place all discontinued meds in their original prescription containers in a bag or baggie marked stopped/expired. Store the bag in a secure place until the contents can be properly disposed. Look for local resources for environmentally friendly disposal.

Lynn Harrelson is a pharmacist who specializes in medication and prescription management for seniors. She provides health care services and information that help individuals remain independent in their homes, retirement and assisted living facilities.

Senior Pharmacy Solutions

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