Keeping medications in easy-to-reach places and easy-to-open containers can raise the risk of accidental poisoning or intentional misuse. Many grandparents are guilty of this when the grandchildren come over to visit.
A new poll suggests many of them could do more to reduce the risk of their medications harming their grandchild. More than 80% of the grandparents polled say they keep their medication in the same place as usual when their grandchildren visit their house – and 72% keep them in their purse or bag when they go to visit their grandchildren.
And nearly one-third say they store their prescription medications in something other than the container they came in – with the vast majority of them using an easy-to-open container. These practices may put children at risk of accidental poisoning if they get into their grandparent’s medications.
For older grandchildren, the easy access may lead to misuse of certain medicines that hold the potential for abuse – for instance pain medicines and sedatives.The findings, from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, suggest that grandparents need more education about safe medication storage when they’re around children and teens, whether for a holiday visit or a regular childcare session. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40% of children treated in emergency departments for medication-related poisoning.
Care and risk
Two-thirds of grandparents say they provide care for their grandchildren; 42% care for them monthly and 18% care for them weekly. One in ten live with their grandchildren year-round. Just over half of all adults age 50 and over who answered the poll are grandparents, including 74% of those over age 65. In all, 86% said their grandchildren had visited them in the past year.
During those visits, the poll found, 84% of older adults don’t change their routine regarding where they store their medicines. Those usual places include cupboards or cabinets (61%), countertops and tables (18%), purses or bags (7%) or other locations (15%). Only 5% said they routinely keep their medications in a locked cupboard or cabinet in their own homes.
And when grandparents visit their grandchildren, the chance of easy access may go up, the poll suggests. Nearly three-quarters of grandparents say they keep their medicines in their bag, and 7% leave them on a counter or table. Only 7% placed them in a locked cupboard or cabinet.
Childproof prescription drug vials and bottles were developed and required starting years ago, specifically to protect children from accidentally swallowing medicine not prescribed to them. Those “childproof” containers, however, can be hard for some adults to open. So the poll asked grandparents if they ever used alternate containers — ones that could be easier for children to open.
Twenty-nine percent of the older adults polled said they transferred their prescription medicines to other types of containers. Slightly lower percentages did the same for supplements and over-the-counter medicines, which can also harm children especially when taken in larger than recommended amounts.
Grandparents should make sure to have the national Poison Control number, 1-800-222-1222, stored in their phone, memorized or available. Still have questions, call us for some quick tips from your doctor.