Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Smart Medication Management Can Promote Compassionate Caregiving

I invited Katie Huffstetler from the company Senior Living Communities to share an innovation her company is implementing to help with the challenge of medication management. Here’s her guest article:

It’s hard to move out of a family home into an assisted living community. If that community feels like home, however, that move can be just a little easier.

The company I work for recently announced a new initiative designed to reduce drug error rates and enhance residents’ quality of life by taking the med-cart out of medication management. In our communities, assisted-living residents will enjoy an in-suite, secure cabinet that houses their pre-packaged medication. Each pouch has a bar-code that nurses will scan into a community-wide computer system, recording when the medication is given and ensuring accurate dosage practices. With caregivers inputting information electronically, transcription errors are virtually eliminated.

For caregivers that means one thing … peace of mind. The added bonus of a decrease in institutional scheduling means residents can dictate when they would like to take their medication, just as they would if they were living independently. Although they will continue to take their medications as prescribed by their physician, residents will not be on a rigid, operational timeframe. Morning medication can be taken before or after their first cup of coffee, according to their individual preferences.

Did you know recent statistics estimate more than 25 percent of assisted living residents enter facilities as a result of poor medication management?

New technology gives us a tool to help people avoid this need, by better managing their medication at home. In our independent living retirement communities we’ve partnered with Concept Medical Technologies to provide MedAssure to the residents living there. MedAssure is a counter-top computer capable of storing and dispensing pouch-packaged medication at a scheduled time. Residents or caregivers program alerts into MedAssure and the computer notifies its user when it is time to take their medication. The machine continues to prompt users to take their medication until the correct pouch is removed.

MedAssure is also capable of sending text or e-mail messages to residents, family members or caregivers if they prefer a text reminder instead of an audible alarm. The computer gives caregivers a sense of safety without compromising Mom and Dad’s independence or their health.

These improvements are broad in scope, but it’s the little successes that mean the most when you’re a caregiver. The industry as a whole faces huge challenges when it comes to implementing operational changes that make residents feel at-home in their surroundings, but if we can agree to think like caregivers, we’ll understand that it’s not so much about efficiency or productivity as it is about putting a smile on the face of someone we love. For more information about Senior Living Communities, visit our Web site at www.senior-living-communities.com.

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