Common Home Medication Errors and How You Can Avoid Them

When you visit your medical provider and are given a prescription, you provider should review exactly what the medication is, why it is being prescribed to you, exactly how and when you should take it, and potential side effect, among other need-to-know items. More often than not, patients leave their doctor’s office feeling a little confused and rushed, but do what they are told because the doctor said so — or at least as best as they can remember about what they were told.

When you pick your medication up at the pharmacy, the pharmacist is then supposed to review, reiterate, and educate you further about the medication to ensure you understand how to take it. Along with the medication, you should receive medication information printouts and the bottle should feature labels that point out the most critical points.

The number of people on medications that cannot name the drug, the dose, and what it does for their body is staggering. Many people know “I take the little pink one for my thyroid and the little white one for my cholesterol, and I think the oval one is for my blood pressure.” Most people have no idea how the medication affects their body or interacts with other medications, and this leads to a host of significant problems.

Join us in today’s post as we discuss some of the most common home medication errors and how you can prevent them from happening to you or your loved one.


Medications are chemicals or synthetic vitamins or hormones, that are taken for the purpose of affecting your body in one way or another. However, most medications interact with other substances. For instance, education should be provided to those who take blood thinners to avoid leafy green vegetables and for those who are on certain cholesterol medications to avoid grapefruit juice. These simple interactions can alter the way the medication affects your body.

Drug interactions are even more common that food interactions. When you have multiple prescribing providers or have recently been discharged from the hospital on new medications, it is important to have all of your medications reviewed together to identify risks. Also, if you are on prescription medications, it is important to understand how over-the-counter medications or supplements may affect them.

Wrong Medication

Taking the wrong medication is a fairly common home medication error. Many people who take daily medications use a pill organizer to preset all of their medications for the week. Pill organizers are convenient when you take multiple medications because it cuts down on the time and effort it requires to take the medication. However, this makes it difficult to identify which pills are in the container and which ones you need at the time. Some people get confused when a lot of their medications have similar names or do similar things. Is this the acetaminophen or is this my lisinopril? To avoid this, it is best to keep medications in their original, clearly labeled packages. When multiple people are in the home and on prescription medications, it may happen that the wrong person takes the wrong medication. To avoid this, it is best to keep medications in their original, clearly labeled packages.

Wrong Dose

Patients may end up taking the wrong dose of medication for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons are:

  • pills that should be cut in half are not
  • doses that require multiple of the same pill are not taken
  • the label says something different than the current prescription

Sometimes taking the wrong dose is intentional and sometimes it is an accident. Many patients who are on a budget may begin to ration their medications and half or skip doses to make their supply last longer. This practice can be incredibly dangerous. To prevent taking the wrong dose of medications, you should clearly understand

Additionally, it should be noted that not finishing short-term prescriptions it is taking the wrong dose. Common examples of this are antibiotics and steroids. When patients begin feeling better, they may stop taking the medication, especially when they encounter less-than-desireable side effects. However, this can lead to rebound problems because the medication is not as effective as it should be, so the problem does not get completely resolved.

Not Monitoring Effectiveness

This is one of the biggest issues with managing medications at home. For those who are on medications for chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, your medical provider prescribes a medication and a dose in an attempt to correct your condition. However, day-to-day living, what you eat, how much you exercise, and how you metabolize the medication can change. Many times patients are not using the medications to keep their condition within a certain range, but are blindly taking the medication as prescribed. Some things like cholesterol and thyroid function do require lab testing and can be done and longer intervals. While other conditions, like blood pressure and blood sugar, should be monitored regularly and medication doses titrated to results. Let’s review some examples.

Metoprolol, an effective beta blocker, is used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure. The medication is highly effective and causes a variety of side effects. When taken at the wrong time or when a blood pressure low, can cause fainting. If a dose is missed, this is not a drug that should be doubled up on once you remember. Additionally, you should check your blood pressure prior to taking the dose. If the medication is taken as it should be, monitoring its effectiveness will allow you to optimize its effects.

Insulin, a medication that is used to treat diabetes and control blood sugar levels, comes in many forms. Most people who use it are on a sliding scale and check their blood sugar prior to administration, taking what they need to manage their current condition. However, it is important to monitor your blood sugar afterward. If you take regular insulin, it is quick acting and should be taken near meal times. For long-acting insulins, you may need to have a snack before bedtime. It is important to understand how your insulin works and to monitor if it is working for you.

Medication Management and Medication Administration Assistance From an In-Home Care Provider

Having help with our medications results in the best outcomes. Home health agencies offer medication administration assistance in a few different forms. Your home health nurse can simply provide follow-up information about your prescriptions and ensure that all of your prescribing providers are sharing accurate information to help prevent interactions — functioning as liaisons on a multi-disciplinary team. Your home health nurse can educate you on all of your medications and answer your questions on your time — without the rush of the clinic. Your home health nurse can also help you prepare questions for your provider, monitor effectiveness, and will do assessments to identify needs or change in condition.

At Angels on Call Homecare, our skilled home health staff can help you manage all of your medications and ensure they are taken safely. Whether you need patient education, medication reminders, or you need assistance with preparation and administration, we can help! Contact us to schedule your evaluation and prevent medication errors in your home.

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