Once you’ve reached a certain age, one or more prescriptions are likely a part of your daily routine.

But if you’re spending time with your grandchildren, you may not be thinking enough about the security of your medications. That oversight could lead to accidental poisoning of younger grandchildren, and abuse by their older siblings.

That’s the conclusion of a recent poll by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with support from AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

Dangers when grandkids visit

“We know that grandparents love spending time with their grandkids. A few simple steps can keep those little ones safe when you’re together”
Alison Bryant, senior VP of research

More than 80% of the 2,000 grandparents polled said they keep their medication in its usual spot when their grandchildren visit—and 72% carry them in a purse or bag when they go to visit their grandkids.

What’s more, almost one-third reported storing prescription medications in an easy-to-open container, not the medicine bottle they received from the pharmacist.

“According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40% of children treated in emergency departments for medication-related poisoning took their grandparents’ medicines,” the university notes.

Grandparent visits: Bringing danger to the kids

Two-thirds of the grandparents polled said they provide care for their grandchildren: 42% monthly, and 18% weekly. One in ten live with their grandchildren year-round. In total, 86% said their grandchildren had visited them in the past year.

During those visits, 84% of grandparents said they leave their medications in unsecured locations. Those locations include cupboards or cabinets (61%); countertops and tables (18%); purses or bags (7%); or other locations (15%). Only 5% of respondents said they routinely keep their medications in a locked cupboard or cabinet.

And when grandparents visit their grandchildren, nearly three-quarters of grandparents say they keep their medicines in their bag, and 7% leave them out on a counter or table. Only 7% placed them in a locked cupboard or cabinet.

“We know that grandparents love spending time with their grandkids. A few simple steps can keep those little ones safe when you’re together,” Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP, said in a press release.

“Don’t leave medications in your purse or on a kitchen counter–it’s best to keep them locked up. It’s also a good idea to go through your medications every few months and safely discard any that are expired or no longer needed.”

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