Spring Cleaning: Tips to Tidy Up Your Health


Springtime is the perfect time to get your health needs in order, including disposing of unused or expired medications, making important decisions about your future health care, registering to give the gift of life as an organ donor, learning more about accessing your health information through MyChart, and scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot (if you haven’t already) or COVID-19 test.

Read on for helpful tips on all of these topics.

How do I get rid of old prescription drugs?

Have leftover or expired prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet? Too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands — with dangerous and often tragic results.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue, leading to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse. In fact, the DEA says the non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug abuse in America. And the majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get them from family and friends — and the home medicine cabinet.

There’s no better time than now to “spring clean” your medicine cabinet. You can safely and anonymously get rid of unused or old prescription medication on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, April 30. Participating police stations across the region will accept drugs, no questions asked, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., April 30.

National Take Back Day is held twice a year. During the last National Take Back Day, in October 2021, nearly 5,000 sites collected 372 tons of medications.

To find a collection site near you, go to https://takebackday.dea.gov/ and enter your ZIP code.

By taking your unused medication to participating take-back locations to be destroyed, you can play a part in helping to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.

How do I let my family know my wishes for future health care?

You make decisions about your health every day. But have you made plans for your care in case of a medical emergency or serious illness?

National Healthcare Decisions Day was April 16. The observance was established to educate the public and medical providers about the importance of these thoughtful decisions. It is a day dedicated to having meaningful conversations about goals of care and making decisions about your advance care plans.

By putting your advance care plan in writing for your loved ones and your medical team, you can ensure your wishes toward end of life are carried out if you cannot speak for yourself, says Charles Crecelius, MD, BJC Medical Group Post-Acute Care Medical Director.

“About 90% of us will not die suddenly and will go through a long process of decline in physical and mental abilities,” says Dr. Crecelius. “Some may want every medical intervention, no matter how much pain, suffering or functional loss they go through, while others do not want any extraordinary measures done, such as shocking the heart or even going to a hospital. Many are somewhere in between.”

Dr. Crecelius says less than 10% of patients over the age of 65 have any documentation of living wills, power of attorney documents or other advance care documents in their BJC medical records. Even at death, only 34% have any document expressing their wishes.

An advance care plan prepared before an urgent or emergent situation occurs removes the burden from loved ones and allows a better sense of certainty that individual wishes can be honored.

Learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day and resources available to help you communicate your future wishes.

April is Donate Life Month. Should I register to be an organ donor?

More than 115,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ. And many of them face a lengthy wait.

April is National Donate Life Month, the perfect time to consider becoming an organ donor.

Did you know that one organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the quality of life for up to 75 people?

Through deceased organ donation, you have the ability to give life at the end of yours, potentially saving many lives. Register to become an organ donor.

Or you could consider becoming a living kidney donor.

When a transplant patient receives a kidney from a living donor, he or she may live twice as long as someone who received a kidney from a deceased donor. And patients who receive a kidney from a living donor have shorter hospital stays and, overall, fewer problems after surgery.

Donating a kidney to a person in need ― be it a loved one, friend or stranger ― is a generous and courageous gift. Such a donation is an extremely important decision and needs to be made voluntarily and without pressure or guilt. To assist with this decision, anyone interested in living donation undergoes a thorough medical and psychosocial assessment. Following evaluation and confirmation of the decision to give, those who donate kidneys can lead normal, active lives without restrictions after recovering from surgery. The body can function perfectly well with only one kidney.

Learn more about becoming a living donor.

Read about a recent patient’s transplant experience.

Having performed over 11,000 organ transplants, the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center is the largest transplant center in the region and 14th largest in the nation. Performing more than 550 transplants every year, this highly experienced and specialized team works closely with patients' physicians to ensure the best continuation of care and chance for a healthier future. Learn more about the transplant center.

I’ve heard of MyChart. What is it and how can it help me?

MyChart is a free service offering personalized and secure online access to information in your medical record. It enables you to securely use the internet to help manage and receive information about your health.

With MyChart, you can:

  • Request medical appointments

  • View your health summary from your MyChart electronic health record

  • View test results

  • Request prescription renewals

  • Access trusted health information resources

  • Communicate electronically and securely with your medical care team

How do I sign up for MyChart?

If you have an upcoming office visit or hospital stay through BJC HealthCare or Washington University Physicians, you’ll receive an email containing a link that automatically enrolls you in MyChart. Click the link and follow the instructions to activate and access your MyChart account. Or, if you’re 18 or older, you can sign up for MyChart online.

Can I view a family member’s health record in MyChart?

Yes, you may view a child’s or adult’s health record in MyChart, with the patient’s consent. Called Proxy access, this allows a caregiver or family member to log in to his or her personal MyChart account and then connect to information about a family member. A Proxy Application Form must be completed and returned to one of BJC’s medical facilities to request access to MyChart. Find MyChart Proxy forms under “Can I view a family member’s health record in MyChart?”

Adults age 18 and older can log in to their own MyChart account and directly request that proxy access be given to their spouse or other loved one.

Can my children have their own MyChart account?

MyChart accounts can be established by anyone age 12 years or older who is a patient at a participating BJC HealthCare or Washington University Physicians facility. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 should complete the MyChart Application for Minor Patients Ages 12-17 Years.

Proxy access gives parents and legal guardians access to information for children younger than age 18. Through proxy access, parents and legal guardians can keep track of vaccination records, growth charts, diagnoses and medical instructions, as well as communicate with a child's care team.

For children age 11 and younger, an active MyChart is required for the parent or guardian requesting proxy access. Sign up for MyChart. The parent then must fill out the MyChart Proxy Application for Minor Patients Ages 0-11 Years.

Due to legal considerations, proxy access for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 years requires the consent of the teen, along with the teen's primary or long-term care provider. To request access to a record for a child between 12 and 17, complete the MyChart Proxy Application for Minor Patients Ages 12-17 Years.

The teen must have an active MyChart account before proxy access can be added.

Where can I get more information about MyChart?

First, check out these Frequently Asked Questions. If you don’t find what you’re looking for or still have trouble enrolling or logging in to MyChart, call MyChart Patient Support at 314.273.1966 or 866.273.1966.

Sign up for MyChart.

How do I get a COVID-19 vaccine, booster shot or test?

Haven’t yet been vaccinated against COVID-19? Vaccination is recommended for all individuals age 5 years and older for the prevention of COVID-19.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine currently available for children ages 5-17 years, and children younger than 18 must be accompanied to their vaccination appointment by a parent or legal guardian who will need to show ID and/or proof of legal guardianship.

Schedule a vaccination or booster appointment through BJC.

What about boosters?

A booster dose is recommended for everyone 12 years and older.

If you received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as the initial series, your first booster dose should be given at least five months after completing the series.

If you received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, the first booster dose should be given at least two months after completing the series.

The following people are eligible for a second booster dose at least four months after the first booster:

  • Anyone 50 years and older

  • Those 12 years and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised

  • Anyone 18-49 years who received J&J as both their primary series and booster dose

For those 5 years and older with a compromised immune system (including cancer or organ transplant patients), an additional (third) primary series Pfizer or Moderna dose is recommended 28 days after the last Pfizer or Moderna dose, or as a second primary series dose after an initial Johnson & Johnson/Janssen dose. Those individuals would be eligible for boosters after completing the primary series.

Visit the CDC’s website for more information about booster doses and primary series recommendations for moderately or severely immunocompromised people.

How do I schedule an appointment for the vaccine?

Schedule a vaccination or booster appointment through BJC.

To find other locations near you, visit vaccinatestl.org or vaccines.gov.

You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

There is no charge to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, if you have insurance — including Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance — BJC will bill insurance for administration of the vaccine. Please bring your insurance card to your appointment.

If you have already received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine elsewhere and need to schedule a second dose of a primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, contact the organization where you received your first dose.

How do I find a COVID-19 test near me?

If you need to be tested for COVID-19, there are multiple options. Check with your local public health department, which often offers free testing options. You can also contact your primary care physician. A hospital emergency department is not the best place to receive a COVID-19 test.

Learn more about testing options from:

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Illinois Department of Public Health
St. Louis County
St. Louis City
St. Charles County
Additional options include many retail pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, and local urgent care centers.

With 10 convenient locations across the area, BJC Convenient Care locations are also an option for COVID-19 testing for symptomatic patients only, age 2 and older. Find a Convenient Care location near you that offers COVID testing.

BJC emergency departments do not offer stand-alone testing services. If you do not have symptoms or do not need immediate care, an emergency department is not the best place for testing. Emergency room visits require a fee or co-pay. In addition, patients are prioritized by severity of illness or injury, so individuals without symptoms seeking testing may experience extended waiting times.

By tackling these key health care projects, you’ll be doing the most unconventional — but perhaps most important — “spring cleaning” you’ve ever done.

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