Safe medication management should be a top priority for anyone caring for an elderly individual. Many seniors take more than one medication per day. In fact, a survey sampling over 2,000 adults between 62-85 years of age determined that 87% used at least one prescription medication while 36% used five or more prescription medications! For seniors with physical impairments (such as arthritis or trouble seeing) or cognitive difficulties, keeping up with medications can be especially difficult.
When it comes to medication management and in-home care, it’s important to know what your in-home care company can and cannot do. Therefore, we want to answer any questions you might have about how Shepherd’s Staff can help with medication management and suggest some ideas for safe use of medications and how you can help your loved one.
What our caregivers can and cannot do
Caregivers generally cannot dispense or administer medications, but they can assist in several ways:
- The caregiver can give verbal reminders take medications and provide visual cues.
- If the client is capable of managing his or her own medications, the caregiver can help open a bottle or reach for a container. (This is helpful for clients who struggle with arthritis.)
- If pills have been dispensed into a pill reminder box, a caregiver can place the scheduled dose in a cup and hand it to the client.
- The caregiver can watch the client take the medication and make sure it is not forgotten, misplaced, or accidentally dropped.
- The caregiver can document that a medication has been taken or refused.
A registered nurse can fill a pill reminder box after obtaining a physician’s order directly from the client’s doctor. This service, available for a additional fee, is a great option for clients who can’t manage their own medications and don’t have a family member available to help them. Clients who need daily assistance with medication management (such a person with diabetes who needs dosages determined and dialed up) would need to be assigned a caregiver who is who is certified to handle medications. In this case, a physician’s order and supervision by the nurse would also be required.
Helpful medication management tools
Pill reminder boxes are a great tool for any client taking medications, whether they’re taking only one pill a day or multiple medications throughout the day. These can be filled up to a month at a time by a family member (or a nurse with a physician’s order). A variety of styles are available, including this one, labeled with days of the week, weekly boxes set up for three doses or four doses per day, or a box for twice daily medications that will last the whole month. There are many options available!
If your family member is memory impaired, the pill reminder box can actually be a hazard, because of the risk of accidentally taking too many doses. In this case, we highly recommend considering a locked pill dispenser. This carousel device can be programmed to dispense medications up to 6x per day. Some include remote monitoring, like this automatic dispenser that links to an app, allowing you to get a notification if loved one has missed any doses.
Remember, a senior with memory issues might still have difficulty with medications, so it’s important to have a caregiver or family member monitor the situation closely. There’s no substitute for having someone there to provide cues and document the results.
Ways you can help with medication management
We know you want the absolute best care for your loved one. There are many ways you can — and should be — involved in his or her medication management.
First, set up a document listing all of the medications currently prescribed and why your senior is taking them. Make sure all of your loved one’s physicians have an up-to-date version of this document. (Keep a printed record as well as a record you can easily access from a mobile device or tablet.) Make this document available to your caregiver and any other family members who need to be informed about your loved one’s care.
If you haven’t done so already, learn how to properly read the labels on prescription medications, as well as the drug facts label on over-the-counter meds. Have a trusted doctor or pharmacist review everything your loved one is taking (including vitamins and herbal supplements) to ensure that none of them have negative interactions with one another.
We also recommend that you make a habit of checking in with your loved one about any side effects he or she might be experiencing. It’s never a bad idea to re-evaluate if a medicine is truly necessary.
We are happy to help answer any questions you may have about medication management. We welcome thorough communication about your loved one’s needs. It is our pleasure to serve your family!