Expired Medications Can Do Seniors More Harm than Good

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There’s a temptation among seniors to use medications past their expiration dates because of high cost, lack of insurance, or the need to visit a doctor to renew a prescription. Many won’t throw away their medications if they have extra on hand or their doctors switch their prescriptions, but seniors may end up taking the wrong dose if they get old medications mixed up with new ones, and older medications might not be as effective or safe to use.

The expiration date is the latest date when the manufacturer guarantees full potency and safety of a drug. By the time the expiration date arrives, the drug can be less than 100 percent potent. It might not mean the medication is harmful or is no longer effective. However, doctors caution against using medication after the expiration date.

Taking medication properly can be difficult for older adults with cognitive issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a homecare services agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

Loss of Effectiveness

While manufacturers can determine a medication’s shelf life (the time a drug will last without deteriorating), they’re not required to determine the actual drug potency and stability over that time. Over time, the chemical and physical properties of medications can change, and therefore, it’s best to dispose of them upon the expiration date. Some may disintegrate, or liquids will separate into layers. While this may rarely happen with medications for minor conditions (headache and cold medicines may be 90 percent effective even 10 years after their expiration dates), some medications for serious conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, can be significantly less effective after their expiration dates. Tablets, powders, and capsules are much more stable than drugs in liquid form. 

Here are some of the medicines seniors should never use past their expiration dates because of the potential for severe consequences, including ineffectiveness:

  • Nitroglycerin
  • Insulin
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Sleep medications
  • Eye drops (risk of bacterial contamination)
  • Epinephrine
  • Thyroid medicine
  • Antibiotics
  • Any drugs in liquid or suspension form

Helping their elderly relatives remember to take their medications properly can be a challenging task for overworked family caregivers. Whether you need respite from your caregiving duties or your aging loved one needs live-in care, Rocklin, CA, Home Care Assistance can meet your family’s care needs. Our dedicated caregivers are available around the clock to provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, ensure seniors take their prescribed medications, and help with a variety of tasks in and outside the home.

Storage & Disposal Methods

Beyond safety, there are other reasons for disposing of medicine in a timely and proper manner. As seniors age, it can get confusing as to which medication to take, and there may be harmful drug interactions if an expired medicine is taken without a doctor’s knowledge. Here are some tips on storing and properly disposing of medicines: 

  • Make sure medications are stored in a safe place, and have a chart or other method that can be checked by your loved one or his or her caregiver when each dose is taken.
  • Store medications in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children.
  • Dispose of medications that aren’t needed. This not only avoids excess clutter but also prevents the wrong medication from being taken accidentally.
  • Don’t dispose of medicines by flushing them down the toilet, as there’s evidence this can contaminate the water system. A better method of disposal is to take the medication out of its original container and mix it with another substance, such as kitty litter or dirt, put the mixture in a sealable bag, and toss the bag in the trash. These precautions prevent children and pets from gaining access.
  • Some states take back medications. Contact your local pharmacist.
  • Check medication labels for disposal instructions.

Older adults who need help with everyday tasks such as remembering to take their medications on time should consider professional home care services. Families shouldn’t have to worry about finding reliable senior care. Rocklin Home Care Assistance is a leading provider of elderly home care. We offer a proprietary program called the Balanced Care Method, which uses holistic methods to promote senior health, our caregivers and Care Managers are available 24/7, and all of our in-home care services are backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. To hire a professionally trained caregiver for your loved one, call us at (916) 226-3737 today.


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