Mind Your Meds – Senior Education for Safe Opioid Use and Disposal

April 16, 2019

Cindy Warriner, HQI’s pharmacist, educates seniors on safe opioid use and disposal.

According to the Allied Against Opioid Abuse analysis, approximately 40.5% of unused medications are a source for misuse and overdose. Knowing this statistic and that safe disposal is such an important part of addressing the opioid abuse epidemic, HQI’s medication safety team decided to educate senior communities on safe disposal of medications

and how it can help prevent misuse. The challenge was to engage and empower beneficiaries with education and help them take action from what they learned.

Last fall, Cindy Warriner, HQI’s pharmacist, met with Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging, to develop education related to safe opioid use and disposal. The goal of the program was to engage and empower seniors, volunteers and caregivers. She successfully piloted the program with a foster grandparent group that met monthly, which led to interest from other senior organizations.

HQI now provides patient education on safe opioid use and proper medication disposal in the Richmond community, an opioid hotspot. At the end of the program, participants are challenged to clean out their medicine cabinets and properly dispose of their old medications. We also invite them to ask a friend or group to do the same. Self-reported results shared this month showed that 20 of the 28 participants (71.4%) cleaned out their medicine cabinet and disposed of old or unused medications properly. Additionally, 13 of the 28 (46.43%) participants said they asked another person or group to complete the same process. We are partners with the Virginia Association of Area Agencies on Aging (VAAAA) to spread this successful program to additional hotspots throughout the state by providing training to local pharmacies so they can replicate this activity in each Area Agency on Aging (AAA) region.

Southwest Virginia also struggles with high rates of opioid use. HQI partnered with District Three (one of the AAAs in Southwest Virginia) to present the program to four senior centers in Galax, Hillsville, Chilhowie and Damascus. On April 9 and 10, Warriner led “Mind Your Meds: Safe Opioid Use and Disposal” meetings for seniors. More than 85 seniors attended the program and received the education. In the following week, participants reported if they completed their “homework” of properly disposing of old medicine and also how many friends did the same. The AAA plans to highlight the success during the April 27 National Prescription Drug Take Back day. AAA leaders plan to use the program and spread the information to an additional eight senior centers in their area.

Since announcing the initiative, Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens (AASC) in Cedar Bluff and the Local Office on Aging (LOA) in Roanoke have shown interest in the program.

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