June 19, 2018
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Expired medications raises safety concerns

Senior Beat
by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging


A friend of mine recently shared a story of how she took a look around her father’s medicine cabinet only to find some prescriptions that had expired years ago. She promptly removed them over her dad’s protests that he “might need them some day.”

OK. He is never going to need them because they are no longer useful and may even be dangerous. Unfortunately this is not a unique story. I hear it all the time so if it sounds familiar to you follow my friend’s lead and take a look around your own medicine chest. You may be surprised at how many prescriptions are squirreled away taking up space. Be safe and dispose of all unnecessary medications. The Bangor Police Department and the sheriff’s office both have drug drop boxes for medication disposal.

Another safety issue is the theft of drugs. There is no shortage of criminals eager to separate you from your medications.

Think about when you go to the bank and withdraw money. We are conditioned to speak softly, as it is potentially dangerous to request cash in a loud voice, lest some unsavory character with ill intentions overhears the conversation and forcibly relieves us of our money in the parking lot.

Now think about when you go to the pharmacy. Do you ask the pharmacist for your prescription by its name? If so, you may get a rude awakening in the parking lot.

Our local law enforcement officers warn the public to never disclose what medication is being picked up at the pharmacy window. Medications are as valuable as money, sometimes more so to addicts who will stop at nothing to get the drugs they want.

It’s unnecessary to reveal the brand or type of medication that you are picking up because the pharmacist already has that information. All you need to do announce is your name.

Should you have questions about your medication, take a look around you first to make sure no one is within earshot before you ask them. Remember drugs are valuable and there is a real risk of them being stolen. Ask the pharmacist if there is a place where you could speak privately and if not, use the lowest voice possible.

And never chat with other people in line about “what you’re there for,” and compare conditions or treatments. Again, you never know who is listening and could, at that moment, be making a plan to follow you right out the door. And have the pharmacist put your prescriptions in a regular bag and not a pharmacy bag which is like a sign saying, “I am carrying medications.”

Now, my intent is not to make you paranoid, although I tend to be and it’s really not so bad. I just want to make you more aware of your surroundings, especially if you have prescription drugs with a proven street value.

I realize this is a sad commentary on the world we live in and that the necessity of being on guard all the time may be depressing, however, that’s how it is these days. And the most important thing is to be safe.

So watch your purse, your bank account, credit card and social security numbers, keep your medications close to the vest and don’t talk to telemarketers. Don’t fear that you are being rude. Just as you instructed your children not to talk to strangers, it is time to take your own advice. Be careful of who is listening.

It is always better to be safe than sorry so rejoice in the fact that you may have outsmarted a thug. Stand up and be counted as a savvy senior not as a victim.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 207-941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, or go to EAAA.org.

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