Health Watch/Gladys Polzien, RN, MSN, CHPN

With Spring officially starting on March 20th, a group of us at lunch the other day brought up the topic of “Spring Cleaning” and asked “Who’s started their Spring Cleaning?” Several people said they never start and others said they are going to start as soon as the weather warms up. All of us shared stories about yearly rituals and tips to help make this process easier to do. As this topic was being discussed, we also talked about this as being a great time of year to remind patients and their families to clean out their medicine cabinets and organize their medications.

We hear about and see this situation frequently when we visit patients at home. They save old prescriptions not knowing if they should throw them away. Or if they want to dispose of old out dated pills- they don’t know how to safely do it. It’s not easy managing the medications that are needed every day much less having to deal with a stockpile of out dated medications that are taking up storage space. Here are some guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider for proper drug disposal:

Take advantage of “Drug Take-Back Day” in your community. The next scheduled day is planned for April 27. Local and state law enforcement agencies participate. Watch and listen for specific details closer to the day. This is a great opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted, unused prescription drugs.

The Houghton County Sheriff’s office has a drop off collection box available all year round during their office hours for unwanted prescription drug disposal.

Do not flush medications down the toilet, this can add unnecessary drug residue into water systems.

If no instructions are given on a drug label, take pills out of their original container and mix them with kitty litter, or used coffee grounds and put them in a sealable bag, or empty can that has a cover to prevent leakage, and then place into a garbage bag and into the trash.

Before throwing out empty medication bottles, be sure to scratch off any identifying information on the label so it cannot be read. This protects your identity and limits the chances of someone finding out what type of medications you are taking.

Do not give old prescriptions to someone else. Your health care provider prescribes the medication based on your specific symptoms. A drug that works for you may be dangerous for someone else.

Once you have cleaned out your old prescriptions, you may find it easier to manage your current ones. In home health care, we are always looking at ways to help patients and families better manage their medications. Here are a few key points that we discuss:

Proper medication management is important to maintain your good health.

When medications are not taken as prescribed, the costs to patients can be high – both physically and financially.

It’s important to know what medications you are taking and why. It helps to keep an up-to-date medication list.

Live well! If you have additional questions or want more information, talk to your pharmacist, health care provider, or contact us at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice 337-5700.

Editor’s note: Gladys Polzien, RN, MSN, CHPN, is director of operations with Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice.