How to Develop a Backup Medication Supply for Emergencies

backup medication

Many seniors need to take multiple medications for chronic health issues. Often, missing even one dose of medicine can be very dangerous for the elderly, causing them to become sick or even end up in the hospital. Unfortunately, running out of timely medications could happen if an existing supply gets misplaced or contaminated, or if a regular refill fails to come through on time.

To avoid potential problems that can arise with skipped doses, it’s a good idea for caregivers to amass an extra supply of medication so that seniors never accidentally run out. This prevents unnecessary anxiety and conserves money and time, since seniors can simply rely on the emergency supply until a new refill arrives. It even saves money because otherwise they would likely have to pay full retail price for an essential drug if insurance wasn’t able to cover the cost.

Though we tend not to expect that we’ll run into any trouble refilling a recurring prescription, there are in fact several common situations that could prevent this from happening on time. Occasionally pharmacies are temporarily out of stock of that particular medication. A senior or caregiver could become too sick to leave the house, or there could be nobody available to drive to the pharmacy. It may be that severe weather disrupts pharmacy shipments or makes it unsafe or impossible to go outside. Sometimes systemic glitches mean insurance won’t cover a medication payment until the situation gets straightened out, which could take days or even weeks.

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to build up an emergency supply of extra pills without having to spend any extra money or beg doctors to write additional prescriptions. The simplest way to do so is to request prescription refills as soon as they become available. For most insurances, including Medicare, this means every 25 days. Refills typically include enough pills for a full month. This means that if you request and pick up refills every 25 days, you’ll have five or six extra doses left over at the end of each month. Those extra pills will quickly stockpile into a reassuring emergency supply.

Take measures to ensure that you stay on top of timing your monthly refills appropriately. If a caregiver is in charge of the senior’s medication, find out from the pharmacist exactly when your older adult is eligible for prescription refills under his or her insurance plan. Mark this date on your calendar for the next 12 months so you remember each month to request the refill as soon as it’s available. If you use a major drugstore to refill your senior’s medication, it will likely have an automatic refill program that sends regular reminders each month.

As you begin building up extra doses, it’s important to organize them so that you can track the expiration dates. Don’t mix the older extra doses in with that month’s supply; be sure to store those separately. Occasionally, however, you’ll want to use the extra older doses before starting to use the newest refill, to prevent them from expiring. Then you can replenish your emergency backup supply from newer refills.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Take the precaution of planning in advance to store up a sufficient emergency supply so you never find yourself or your older adult in the position of running out of an essential medication!