June is National Safety Month. For seniors, safety takes on many different shapes. In Assisted Living, we find that some of these safety issues are the primary reasons families will reach out for help for their elderly loved ones. One of the primary safety concerns is that of medications.
Heads on Meds
If you are worried that your loved one is not taking their medications as prescribed…or too much…or not at all…then it may be time to consider assisted living. We all know that misuse of medications can cause all sorts of problems, or in some serious cases even death. Assisted Living communities can provide residents with assistance with their daily and as needed medications. Residents must meet the requirements for admission to a community, including being able to identify your name on your medications. Staff are trained to assist residents in taking their meds using the:
- The right route.
- The right time.
- The right resident.
- The right documentation.
Medication management also helps prevent against a loved one taking a medication that has expired.. Looking out for the safety of your elderly loved ones in regards to their meds is one way that residing in an assisted living can help families find peace of mind.
For more information on one of our assisted living communities visit our website:
Not too long ago, I had lunch with a friend of mine that also happened to be a sponsor of one of my residents. She is also my neighbor, but I digress. As we sipped sweet tea, I asked her what was one thing that she wished she knew more about before she moved her Dad into assisted living. Here are a couple useful tips regarding doctor visits that she suggested that will make life easier if you are considering or have made the transition to an assisted living community.
Prep Doctor Visit Steps
Not only do assisted living communities offer scheduling and transportation to appointments for our residents…but we also provide useful tools for communication. We all know that for every physician on the planet they all typically want us to bring our list of meds with us. But here are some things that our staff will provide if you (or if we) are taking your family member to the doctor:
- A current list of medication for all residents for doctor’s appointments (typically we can make a copy of their medication record from that day that ensures they have the most current info available)
- Physician Communication Form (this form is an excellent tool where the doctor can detail their findings and diagnosis information as well as prescriptions or requests for follow-ups etc. This helps provide a written outline of the doctor visit so that the sponsor and resident can communicate fully the needs the resident may require. This form is typically stapled to the copy of the resident’s medication record and given to the sponsor/staff that will be going with the resident prior to the appointment. Upon return to the community following the appointment, the sponsor can just give this to the Administrator or designee. If a staff member took the resident to the appointment, they will then call the sponsor to provide the details from the appointment. This is another reason that this tool is so useful.)
We also can help assist by providing documented weights and other health information that a physician may request. Health information is protected per HIPPA guidelines.
Hopefully this prep will help make doctor visits less daunting. As my friend explained, “when you have been the sole caregiver for an aging parent or loved one, you know them probably better than anyone. But by allowing the staff at the assisted living to join forces with the resident, the sponsor and the physician…we become a team”. This is an excellent analogy! This TEAM is always looking out for the resident. And the vital key is communication. Another important thing that you need to know is that the medications should be in unit dose packaging if they will require staff assistance. So just running a prescription to the pharmacy and picking up a bottle is NOT the way to go. The ADPH rules and regulations are in place to protect. So be sure to get the prescription to the administrator or contact them if you have any questions. This will ensure that you or the staff have them filled properly and that the staff have the proper documentation for the resident chart. Following these simple suggestions can make life easier for you, the staff at the assisted living and most importantly the resident.
As our parents age, we often become concerned that they aren’t able to manage simple things, like remembering to take their medications. Sometimes remembering to take medications is especially hard if our loved one has chronic health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure and takes several medications each day. What can we do when we are concerned that our parents are forgetting to take their medications?
An easy first step is a trip to the physician to make sure that the medications our parents have are the ones they need to take. When going with our parents to see their physician, be sure to take all the medications in their original prescription container for review by the physician. Ask the physician if all the medications are necessary and also if it’s possible to schedule them to be taken no more than twice per day. Simplifying how many times each day medications have to be taken will help streamline the process.
After the medications are reviewed and streamlined as much as possible, invest in a medication organizer. These are inexpensive and available at most drug stores. Fill the organizer with the medications for the appropriate time of day and familiarize your parents with how to use them. Using the organizer shows at a glance whether medications have been taken and make keeping up with the correct dose much easier. When looking for an organizer, make sure to obtain one that your parents can easily open and close and make sure that the dose times correspond to the dose times on the prescriptions. For the first few days using the organizer, a reminder phone call may also be helpful.
If medication organizers, phone call reminders and other steps have failed, it may be time to consider an assisted living community. Assisted living communities’ help individuals remember to take their medications at the time and correct dose ordered by their physician. They also monitor individuals for any problems with medications and notify the physician and family if there is a problem. This is especially important if the individual has chronic health problems.
For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!
Does it seem like everyone you know is taking medication for something? Since 1 in 5 Americans age 45 and older have some type of chronic medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, chances are you have friends who are on long term medication. Perhaps you are also taking a daily medication for a chronic medical condition.
Unfortunately, this trend gets worse as we get older. 76% of people over age 60 in the United States take at least 2 medications daily. 37% take 5 or more medications daily. It’s easy to slip into this when we are often seen to specialist for specific health problems. Before we know it, we may be seeing several specialists in addition to our primary care physician. How do we know when we are taking too many medications?
All medications have side effects. Sometimes a medication that is given to help a specific medical problem can make us have side effects that we don’t recognize as being caused by the medication. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to have side effects, especially if there are interactions between the medications you take.
One way to address this is to do a “Medication Checkup” with your primary care physician. Make an appointment for this and bring ALL the medications you take including those which are only as needed and any over the counter medications, vitamins or supplements. You may find you are taking a medication you no longer need, or that switching to a different medication for a chronic medical condition can reduce or eliminate any side effects.
Another way to help prevent side effects caused by medication interaction is to make sure you use only one pharmacy. Your pharmacist should have a complete list of all medications as well as over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Ask your pharmacist before starting a new over the counter medication to make sure it doesn’t interact with the prescription medications you are currently taking.
Keep an up to date list of all prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements and make sure you update the list with any change. Double check with your primary care provider at each visit to make sure their list is up to date as well.
When bothered by a new problem like insomnia, consider a non-drug approach to manage the problem. Getting some exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime, sticking to a schedule for going to bed each night, limiting caffeine in the evening and limiting electronic screens just before bed can be a non-medication way to help improve sleep.