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The Real (and scary) Stories of Medication Mismanagement


Last fall I was in Texas helping my grandparents while my grandfather was going through cancer treatments. During my time there, I had countless errands to run – most of them mundane, but one turned out to be extremely important – possibly lifesaving.

As Grandma and I went over our list of to-dos for the day, she mentioned she wanted to go to the pharmacy. She had picked up prescription refills the week before, and one of them looked different. My first reaction was amazement – my grandmother is legally blind, so I was astonished she had noticed. But then I was worried. What if she hadn't noticed? What if the pharmacy had made a mistake?

I knew the realities of this scenario all too well. Two years earlier, I was part of the team that created a program to help families prepare for medical emergencies. Part of that program included the story of Rob Albers and his father John.


The statistics on medication mismanagement are scary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nearly 700,000 emergency department visits for adverse drug events in U.S. for adults aged 65 years or older.  Up to 23% of nursing home admissions are due to the senior’s inability to manage their prescriptions on their own. And another startling statistic: 58% of all seniors make an error of some kind when taking their medication. Of those seniors, 26% of the errors are potentially serious.

With that video playing in my head, I was determined to keep my grandmother from being another statistic.

At the pharmacy, Michelle, the lovely pharmacist greeted Grandma with a cheerful, “Good morning, Miss Betty!” Once you hit 80 years old, you’re likely a regular at the pharmacy. My grandmother presented the prescription bottle and explained her suspicions. Michelle shared our concern and immediately started clicking away on the computer to identify the issue. After a few moments, her sleuthing paid off. The pharmacy switched manufacturers for the medication, so it looked different. It was the same drug, it just looked different due to the new manufacturer.

Thankfully my grandmother noticed something seemed different. And thankfully, my story didn't have the same outcome as the Albers family.

Chances are good that a senior in your family is taking multiple medications as well. I encourage you to visit How to Help Your Senior Manage Medications and learn different ways you can help keep them safer and avoid becoming another medication mismanagement statistic.


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