Medication Management in Assisted Living

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Medication management is a critical service offered in most assisted living communities. After all, 77.5% of residents in assisted living need help with medications, according to one recent study. That same study noted that, on average, residents took 13 medications, 3 of them on a daily basis.

Ensuring Your Loved One Receives the Proper Medication at the Proper Time
When your parent was first accepted into an assisted living community, their medication was included as part of an assessment of their needs for a care plan. However, even before the assessment, as the person responsible for their health, you should have been involved in medication management.

#1 Develop a list of medications.
Your loved one’s doctor most likely has a list of the medications they are currently taking. However, does that list include vitamins, herbal preparations or teas, and over-the-counter medications they commonly take?

While doctors are now asking patients to list these items, many seniors don’t consider them.

Your first step is to fill out a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) release form for each physician. You can get additional information and download a blank form here. The HIPAA form permits you to access their health information so you can make a list.

Write down the name of the medication, the dosage, and how frequently they take it.

Your next step is to interview your parent or other loved one about what substances they commonly use. If they take aspirin on a regular basis, write it down. If they drink more than two cups of coffee a day, that may impact the effects of their medicines. If they love to relax in the evening with a glass of wine, that needs to be listed, too.

Also ask them and their doctor about any allergies and include them on the list.

Their list of medications and allergies should be given to their doctor first. Ask for an assessment to determine if they may be experiencing any interactions between medications or other problems. If the doctor approves of all their medications, make sure the doctor’s office or you give the assisted living healthcare official the list. Keep a copy of the list and ask the assisted living community to update you every time something changes.

#2 Get a compliance assessment.
Does your senior loved one have any problem taking one or more medications? Sometimes, a senior may have no problem remembering their blood pressure medication each morning, but forget their restless legs syndrome medication at night or be unable to apply topical medications effectively.

Ask them and their doctor so you have a good idea of whether they need help or not. Ask your loved one if they know the purpose of each medication. Present this information during the care interview at the assisted living community.

#3 Medication management
If your parent does not need help with medication management, do not ask for it even if it is offered. One of the biggest issues residents of assisted living and skilled nursing communities experience is loss of control, so if they can continue to handle their medication, it’s best for them. In most states, residents have the right to take their own medication.

If your loved one needs help with some medications, but not with others, specify them. You can also request verbal reminders for daily medications if you wish.

If you want your loved one to be able to have aspirin, cold medicine, or allergy medicine in their apartment, specify so. Otherwise, some assisted living communities will administer these substances only upon request.

If you bring in any medication or any substance that may affect your loved one, inform the staff so they’ll be aware of any potential negative effects.

#4 Medication administration
In most states, verbal medication reminders and actual medication administration may be performed by any employee on staff. Because MacIntosh communities also offer skilled nursing, we are required by law to have a nurse administer medication under the supervision of a physician. Verbal medication reminders are usually given by state tested nursing assistants.

Ask your assisted living community who administers medication and what training they receive.

#5 Preventing errors
Inform your loved one’s doctor and the assisted living staff that you want to be informed if their medication is changed. You can then observe if there are any negative side effects of new medication.

At most assisted living communities, resident interaction with healthcare professionals is minimal, so side effects may not be noticed or tracked. Because MacIntosh communities also offer long-term skilled nursing care, your loved one is observed by specially trained healthcare professionals, ranging from state tested nursing assistants to licensed practical nurses to registered nurses. Any behaviors out of the ordinary are observed, tracked and acted upon.

#6 Advocacy
You are your loved one’s advocate, whether they are at home or in an assisted living or skilled nursing community. There’s not a healthcare professional in this world who hasn’t witnessed the medication a doctor prescribes affect a patient negatively. This doesn’t mean the doctor is bad, but since every person is different, different medications affect people in various ways.

If you notice or a healthcare professional from the assisted living community contacts you about your loved one’s change in behavior after a new treatment or medication, act quickly. For example, some medications may change a perfectly rational, lucid person into someone who appears confused and demented.

You know what’s best for your loved one. Although the staff at the assisted living community, in all likelihood, have come to know and love your parent, they don’t know them as well as you do. It’s your responsibility to make the difficult decisions in your loved one’s best interest.

Here at MacIntosh, we’re accustomed to being advocates for our residents. Our blogs are designed to inform patients, residents, and their families, as well as healthcare professionals. If we can help you with more information, please contact us. We will be happy to help!