Amy Nguyen
Amy Nguyen

Medicine management is one of the biggest challenges facing the aging population and senior living communities that serve them.

It is not unusual for a relatively healthy older adult to have an assortment of different medications, often prescribed by different physicians. Not only can this create confusion for people, but a real danger exists in some cases when medicines interact negatively with each other simply because one medical provider is not aware of conflicting medicines when prescribing. This negative interaction even may be caused by something as seemingly benign as a vitamin supplement.

These issues escalate as people age and their medical care becomes more complex. Pharmacists and senior living community managers alike are accustomed to seeing garbage bags full of prescription medications for a single resident.

This confusion can result in increased rates of hospital admissions, emergency department visits and other medical issues. It also can create unnecessary discomfort and frustration for people simply trying to manage their own care, unaware that some very simple steps may improve their lives.

One way to address these issues is with in-home pharmacy care and on-site medical management services.

The effectiveness is most striking when we look at high-risk and severely ill older adults. Typically, this group has a 30-day hospital readmission rate of 35% following treatment. Pharmacy-led in-home medical management has been able to cut that rate by more than half, saving up to $260,000 per 100 people. In fact, based on data to date, people with congestive heart failure who participate in these types of medication management programs have a readmission rate of only 5%.

But in-home pharmacy care does more than help the extreme ends of the health spectrum.

When pharmacists visit older adults in their communities, they also see increased vaccination rates for pneumonia, flu and shingles, among other diseases. Ensuring vaccines against pneumonia alone could reduce incidence by 25%.

In addition, pharmacists often are able to provide smoking cessation counseling. On average, more than 60% of people who smoke and are seeing pharmacists in either their senior living community or in their own homes start these kinds of programs.

Senior living communities that serve a diverse population of seniors, such as Horizon House in Seattle, always are looking for innovative ways to help more people age in place. This type of in-home pharmacy care has proven to be a relatively simple, cost-effective method for achieving that goal. In addition to the dramatic health benefits, it improves overall resident satisfaction.

Specialized delivery of medications aids in this service, as well. Horizon House and the Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group have partnered for 20 years to provide medication monitoring. This monitoring includes cross-checking for accuracy and reactions between medications as well as individualized bubble packaging to ease adherence to medication regimens.

One woman with cardiac issues who received in-home pharmacy care said: “I didn’t think I needed to take my meds. I thought I would be OK. It wasn’t until a pharmacist came into my life and sat down in a human way and explained [my medications], and now I’m a believer.”

Senior living residents deserve peace of mind so that they can enjoy life. Service is the cornerstone of any good senior living community. We are in the business of creating homes for people and building communities that have a meaningful impact on the lives of those who call them home. As we continually look for creative additions to our programs, from concerts and lectures to wellness programs and exercise classes, in-home pharmacy care and onsite medicine management just make sense. After all, it’s about helping people live better lives.

Amy Nguyen (pictured above) is the medical and dental clinic manager at Horizon House in Seattle, which offers independent and assisted living. Ryan Oftebro, PharmD (pictured, left), is CEO of the Seattle-based Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group, which includes a long-term care pharmacy that serves assisted living and life plan communities as well as skilled nursing and other types of facilities.