Whether it’s pain medication, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, or some other condition, many of the prescription drugs that seniors need to improve and maintain their quality of life are also highly coveted by substance abusers and on the black market. For this reason, it’s imperative that a home care plan include a strategy to prevent prescription drug theft and protect the security seniors should be able to expect in their own home.
4 steps to prevent prescription drug theft
- Count pills: Likely one of the best things you can do to prevent the theft of prescription drugs is to count the pills. Each time, a caregiver dispenses the medication he or she should count the number of remaining pills to make sure each one is accounted for. Counting pills may not directly prevent the theft of prescription drugs from unscrupulous caregivers, but it will reduce the time window in which the theft occurred and should act as an effective deterrent. When pills are not counted, it may be months or years before the theft is discovered (if ever) and makes identifying the culprit nearly impossible.
- Secure pill caches: To make it easier to count pills and further reduce the temptation of prescription drug theft, it’s often a good idea to remove only a small number of pills at a time, leaving the rest in a secure lockbox. This is particularly important for seniors with limited transportation means and a larger stockpile of prescription drugs. That said, this strategy should also be carefully implemented to make sure the most vital pills are accessible during emergencies in which seniors may have limited capacity to unlock caches and/or direct care staff.
- Delegate authority: For an elderly resident with dementia and/or limited family support, it may be difficult to reliably implement and monitor almost any prescription drug prevention plan. Ideally, a trusted friend or family member can visit periodically to double-check the status of the home environment and care services, including accounting for prescription drug quantities. Alternately, it may be necessary—or even preferable if family members themselves are unreliable—to delegate this authority to a long-term and reliable caregiver. If neither of these options are available, agency-based caregivers will likely need to be relied upon to responsibly administer prescription drugs and police themselves.
- Home security: Even the best-laid plans are far from foolproof. For one, it’s essentially impossible to forbid caregivers from discussing the job during off hours. Home invasions are, unfortunately, a constant risk for seniors, especially if there’s any evidence that prescription drugs are in the home. Again, this is another reason to create a secure medication lockbox. Still, an advanced home security system is often a good idea, and with a monitoring service can be used in cases of medical emergencies, attempted burglaries, among other situations.