Ann Arbor, MI—Visiting with their grandparents might be a favorite activity for children, but if medications aren’t stored properly, fun could turn into tragedy, according to a new study.

A new University of Michigan poll suggests that Grandpa and Grandma aren’t doing enough to reduce the risk that their unsecured medications could harm their grandchildren.

In fact, more than 80% of grandparents who responded said that they keep their medication in the same place as usual when their grandchildren visit their house. Even a visit from grandparents can be risky, with 72% of respondents saying that they keep drugs in their purse or bag when they leave the house.

Even more problematic, according to the University of Michigan researchers, the medications often aren’t in the original child-proof containers. Instead, nearly one-third of the grandparents told the National Poll on Healthy Aging that they keep their prescription medications in something other than the container they came in and that often is easy to open.

The concern is that younger children could accidentally poison themselves, while older children might misuse medications such as those for pain or sedation, according to the report.

The poll asked more than 2,000 adults aged 50 to 80 years questions about medication storage. The questions were pertinent in light of a CDC report that nearly 40% of children presenting to emergency departments for medication-related poisoning had taken their grandparents’ medications.

“Prescription medicines, and even OTC medicines and supplements, can harm children and teens who find them in grandma’s purse or on grandpa’s kitchen table,” explained poll director Preeti Malani, MD. “Meanwhile, opioid painkillers and sleep medicines can be diverted for recreational use by teens. No matter how old your grandchildren are, you need to think about medication safety.”

In the poll, two-thirds of grandparents said that they provide care for their grandchildren; 42% care for them monthly, and 18% care for them weekly. One in 10 said they live with their grandchildren year-round.

Just more than half of all adults aged 50 years and older who answered the poll are grandparents, including 74% of those over age 65 years. Overall, 86% said that their grandchildren had visited them in the past year.

Poll results show that 84% of older adults don’t change their routine regarding where they store their medicines, which include these locations:
• Cupboards or cabinets (61%),
• Countertops and tables (18%), purses or bags (7%), or
• Other locations (15%).

Only 5% said that they routinely keep their medications in a locked cupboard or cabinet.
When grandparents visit their grandchildren, nearly three-quarters of grandparents said that they keep their medicines in their bag, whereas 7% leave them on a counter or table. Only 7% of grandparents said that they placed them in a locked cupboard or cabinet.

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