Managing the medication regimen for a floor full of residents with limited staffing can be a nightmare for assisted living communities and nursing homes.

Almost 30% of elders take five or more prescription medications each day, which has contributed to medication nonadherence, according to a  study published in the scientific journal Health Education Research. Complex drug regimens can make it difficult to keep track of each prescription and when it needs to be taken, which can lead to costly mistakes. A recent study in BMC Nursing found that mistakes in medication management were commonly perceived as a result of human shortcomings and deficiencies in working conditions, such as the lack of safe tools to facilitate and secure medication management.

A proven solution for medication management for many older adults living independently at home is a pill organizer, which keeps drugs in a convenient location marked with the time of day they need to be taken and a sure-fire way of knowing if they have been forgotten. So why can’t similar solutions be used in senior living and care facilities? Well, they can.

For single prescriptions, blister packs contain a months’ worth of a single medication pre-filled in tamper-resistant, MAP-compliant packaging for safe prescription management. This allows for a great checks and balances system for each patient as caregivers can see if the medication has been administered that day.

For residents who take multiple medications, and even at different times of the day, there are solutions such as MediBubble. As an alternative to a pill box, drugs are sorted into weekly packs with marked daily dosing schedules in perforated bubbles to provide easier medication management. The top of the pack has a photo and description of each contained medication, so it is clear what medications are included and what they look like. Because the pills are presorted with clearly marked dosing schedules, medications can be distributed by certified nursing assistants, because they don’t need to be physically handled. Each bubble can be easily torn off and given to the patient, eliminating the need to handle the pills, which creates a more sanitary experience.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States are harmed from prescription drug medication errors every year, and it is estimated that more than half of those happen in nursing homes. Even with detailed charting, things can fall through the cracks, and the visual reminders provided by both the blister packs and MediBubble can help staff members stay on track when administering medications to residents who may struggle to remember their medication regimens on their own. With staffing challenges not improving soon and a growing senior population, finding solutions for medication management in senior living communities and nursing homes could help save lives.

Kara James, PhD, is president and co-owner of Louis & Clark Pharmacy, strategizing for continuous improvement and upholding outstanding customer care. She attained her doctor of pharmacy in 2012 from Albany College of Pharmacy and has been with Louis & Clark ever since. James is certified in pharmacy-based immunization delivery by the American Pharmacists Association.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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