July 1 (UPI) -- Many seniors aren't safely securing their medications to keep them away from grandchildren, new findings show.
About 86 percent of grandparents put their medication in the same spot when their grandchildren come over to visit, making it easier for any opioid to be found and abused, according to a poll published Monday in National Poll on Health Aging. Another 72 percent report keeping their drugs in their purses or bags during visits to see their grandchildren.
This is particularly problematic since roughly one in 10 grandchildren live with their grandparents, the poll says.
"Prescription medicines, and even over-the-counter medicines and supplements, can harm children and teens who find them in grandma's purse or on grandpa's kitchen table," Preeti Malani, a researcher at Michigan Medicine and the poll's director, said in a news release. "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."
The researchers asked more than 2,000 people between ages 50 and 80 how they stored their medication. Just over half of the respondents identified as grandparents, with about 74 percent over age 65.
"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, AARP senior vice president of research. "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."
The poll found two-thirds of parents babysit their grandchildren, with 42 percent providing monthly care and 18 percent providing weekly care.
One solution to this problem is to move the drugs from the traditional pill bottle to another container. However, only 29 percent of seniors in the poll reported transferring their drugs.
"If you put your pills in day-of-the-week pill sorters so you can remember whether you took your medicine each day, that's great -- but keep that sorter out of the reach of little ones," Malani said. "Make sure you explain to them, and their parents or older siblings, that it's important to stay away from your medicines -- that those pills are for you and you alone."