Pill Identification Safety for Seniors
Hey, what’s that on the floor? Uh, oh. It’s a pill. You didn’t know you had lost a pill.
But, here it is.
Wait. What kind of pill is it? Is this the pill to control my blood pressure? Or, is it an antibiotic for my loved one? I don’t remember what this pill is. How can I find out? There are several ways you can find out what that pill is, and what it is intended for.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health provide a very helpful pill identifier online at the website. There are other pill identification online tools from WebMD, from CVS and other reliable pharmaceutical companies.
An online Pillbox is a tool to help you identify tablets and capsules by the appearance and letters on the pills. When you type in information, more results are shown. You start with typing any letters or numbers on the pill, then the color, shape, size and scoring marks, the marks that help you cut up a pill. The Pillbox can enlarge the images on your screen so you can see the image of a pill clearly. You can click on your matching selection and then go to the Drug Information portal on the website for full information about that pill. Pillbox even keeps track of the pills and what you have typed.
Call Your Pharmacist
Another way to find out about pill identification is to call your pharmacist. Your pharmacist should have a complete list of all your medications and can probably help you identify the pill you found when you describe it to him. The pharmacy can also provide paper copies of the Medication Guide for that pill. So, if the internet is not available to you, ask your pharmacy for help.
- Should I take that pill when it has been on the floor?
Who knows how long it has been on the floor? Or what it has been in contact with it. No, don’t take that pill, especially if it has been exposed to moisture, heat or cold, or if it has been in standing water or in an unsanitary place. If it has been broken or chewed, don’t take it. It is best to dispose of it. It’s not worth the risk.
- Have you taken that pill today, or did you miss your dose? Memory sometimes fails the best of us.
What’s the risk of taking one more than you need? What’s the risk of missing that dosage? Those are the important questions, and you should ask your doctor. Discuss the situation with your doctor, and follow his advice.
To help your memory, it would be best to have a daily medication checklist posted by your bedside, on the fridge, or by your pillbox. Check off the dosages through the day so you can be sure that you are taking the pill at the right time and in the right amount. This is especially important with pills for blood pressure and heart medications and any other life-saving medications. It is surprising how we don’t remember what pill we just took or how many. Having a means of pill identification and a checklist can relieve you and your caregiver of many worries.
Guard against loss and confusion with medications. Use extra awareness and caution around your medications. Lost pills may be swallowed by children or pets, and that is risky for them.
If you are a caregiver, then it’s probably wise to watch your loved one consume her pills, rather than just putting the pills on the bedside table or on a plate, and guess that the pills actually have been swallowed.
Pills can be expensive too, so it’s worth the effort to keep them securely in a closed pillbox or in the original bottles. Keep those Medication Guides in a file at least as long as you are taking that prescription. Use the pill identification safety tools for the seniors and loved ones discussed here.
Use these helpful websites or information from your doctor or pharmacist to help you identify pills and to read about their proper use.
This article was updated for clarity and content on 8/20/20