Medication Safety

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You are encouraged to call your Visiting Health Services provider with any questions or concerns about medications. Never hesitate to ask questions concerning your medications. You will experience the maximum benefits of your medication therapy if you take the medication as directed.

You should ask your healthcare provider the following questions when a new medication has been ordered:

  • What is the name and strength of the medication?
  • Which medical condition is the medication for?
  • How should I take the medication?
  • What are the common side effects of the medication?
  • Does the medication interact with other medications that I have at home?
  • Is it safe to drink alcoholic beverages with the medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • How should the medication be stored?
  • Is a generic brand of the medication available?
  • Can my prescription be refilled? How many times?

If your medication causes you to have any of the following symptoms notify your healthcare provider:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset Stomach

If you experience any unexpected change in condition, it is important to call your physician or healthcare provider immediately.

These unexpected changes may include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Skin rash, hives or itching
  • Swelling of the face
  • Dizziness, fainting


If you are allergic to any medication, write the names on a list and carry it with you so you can be sure to inform your healthcare provider.

Filling Your Prescription

  • Prescriptions should be filled at the pharmacy you ordinarily use. The pharmacist will track and record your medication records.
  • Advise the pharmacist of allergies or reactions to drugs previously taken.
  • Refill your prescriptions and medications before you completely run out.
  • Check and compare your old prescriptions and medications against the new refill.
  • Hospice Clients – Medications provided by hospice may be obtained from the local pharmacy at the direction of the hospice or may be delivered to your home. Please inform your nurse when you are running low on medications several days before you run out. This allows time for the medication to be ordered and delivered.

Taking Your Medication

  • Do not crush or dissolve your medication without instruction. For example, crushing a long acting narcotic pain medication may cause a lethal overdose.
  • Medication should be taken in an area with good lighting.
  • If difficulty swallowing, medication may be available in liquid or lotion form.
  • Re-check the medication label to ensure you are taking the correct prescription.
  • If you have any questions regarding the direction for use, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
  • If you miss taking one or more doses of medication, do not try to "catch up." Contact your healthcare provider for additional instructions or directions.
  • Do not stop taking your medication, unless directed.
  • Never save or store unused medication for future use.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling medications.
  • Wear gloves when administering creams or suppositories.

Storing Your Medication

  • Keep all medications in their original or properly labeled container.
  • Multiple medications should not be stored together in one pill container.
  • Medications should be stored in a clean, cool, dry place.
  • Medications should not be stored in a bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and humidity may reduce the medication effectiveness.
  • Medication containers should be childproof and beyond the reach of children.
  • Narcotics such as pain medications as well as sleeping and anxiety medications should be kept under close control. They may need to be kept locked.

Medication Disposal

Remove all medication from the original container.

Disposal of Solid Medications:

Add a small amount of water to the pills or capsules so they will dissolve into slurry. Mix the slurry with kitty litter, coffee grounds, or flour. Place the mixture in a sealable container. After the container is sealed, tape the top of the container with packing or duct tape. Throw the container into the garbage, not the recycling bin.

Disposal of Liquid Medications:

Mix liquid medication with kitty litter, coffee grounds, flour, cornmeal or table salt. Place the mixture in a sealable container. After the container is sealed, tape the top of the container with packing or duct tape. Throw them into the garbage, not recycling bin.

Disposal of Blister Packs:

Wrap packages in multiple layers of opaque duct tape. Place the wrapped packs in a sealable container. After the container is sealed, tape the top of the container with packing or duct tape. Throw the container into the garbage, not the recycling bin.

Needle "Sharps" Disposal

"Sharps" can include needles, lancets, or other sharp instruments or devices that are utilized in your medical treatment. They should always be properly disposed of to prevent accidental needle-sticks.

Some important tips for the care and disposal of sharps include the following:

  • Check with your local hospital to determine if they have a "Sharps Program". Some have a program that will assist in the disposal of the sharps.
  • Contact your municipality and ask what their rules and regulations are for disposal of the sharps.
  • If a commercial sharps container is not available, one can be made using a heavy plastic bottle. When it is two-thirds full, seal the container with the lid and tape it closed. Overfilling can lead to a needle-stick injury.
  • The container should be disposed of according to the guidelines set by your waste management company. Do not place the container in the recycled trash.


There are many products marketed as "dietary supplements". These include herbal and other botanical ingredients such as processed or unprocessed plant parts (bark, leaves, flowers, fruits and stems) as well as extracts and essential oils. They are available in a variety of forms, including teas, powders, tablets, capsules and elixirs. Although data on the availability, consumer use, and health effects of herbals are very limited, some herbal ingredients have been associated with serious health effects. Make sure to inform your healthcare provider of any herbals that you are taking.


If on anticoagulation therapy, such as Coumadin or Lovenox, be aware of safety precautions:

  • Always take prescribed medication as ordered and at the same time of day.
  • Maintain the same general diet from day to day.
  • Reduce risk of falls at home.
  • When shaving, use an electric razor.
  • Have blood work done as ordered by physician, dose may need to be changed.

If any of the following occur, notify healthcare provider:

  • Prolong bleeding from cuts or nosebleeds
  • Unusual bleeding from gums when brushing teeth
  • Red or dark brown urine
  • Red or black stools
  • Unusual bruising for unknown reasons
  • Pain, swelling, discomfort, or any unusual symptoms
  • Fever or illness, including vomiting, diarrhea or infection

Avoid drastic changes in consumption of foods high in Vitamin K, such as:

  • Beef liver
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Soybean oil
  • Turnip greens