Many assisted living residents take several medications, and they usually have more than one prescribing doctor as well. The benefits of medications, when used as directed, greatly outweigh the risks. Medications improve the quality of residents’ lives and help give them more freedom by alleviating symptoms and ailments that could otherwise leave them unable to perform the actions of daily life. However, with medication use comes the possibility of adverse drug reactions and drug interactions, and if medications are not taken correctly, there could be disastrous results. Ensuring proper medication management is a challenging, essential part of caring for the seniors who live in an assisted living community.
In an assisted living community, if residents can safely manage their medications and their physician agrees, they have the option to self-administer their medications. They can have specially trained staff assist in the process if necessary. At a specialty care assisted living community for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other special care needs, a nurse will administer the medications. At the Cottages, residents who self-administer are expected to know when to take their medications, if they have taken them, and they should be able to verify the drug names on their medication packs. Residents who are assisted in taking their medications verify their names on the medication packs before staff help administer the drugs.
Because several people are involved in prescribing and in assisting administering medications to residents, education, communication, and coordination are key to proper medication management. If the staff are asked to assist with a resident’s medications, the resident must use the Cottages’ pharmacy to avoid having to coordinate multiple pharmacies. The pharmacy checks for possible drug interactions and allergies specific to each resident and then packs the medications into individual packets.
While the resident and the staff at an assisted living community should be knowledgeable about a resident’s medications, it is just as important for the resident’s family members and loved ones to know the details of their senior’s medical history as well. Loved ones should know which doctors the resident visits and which medications they are currently taking. As an informed loved one, you can step in when needed and help connect the assisted living staff to the proper doctors or information. Learn more about ways you can help Mom manage her medications.
Licensed assisted living communities have rules and precautions in place to protect their residents from medication errors. Staff are knowledgeable about and trained in assisting with medication management. The best way that you can help prevent medication errors involving your loved one is to ask questions and to learn about the process of medication management at the assisted living community. You should be able to request an outline of your loved one’s community’s medication management policies. If your senior or loved one is touring an assisted living community soon, here are some questions that you might want to ask while you are there:
- Are residents allowed to self-administer prescriptions if they want?
- If a doctor is not available on site, how are adverse drug reactions detected and handled?
- How does your staff document which medications and what dosages were given at what times?
- Are residents’ medications cross-referenced for specific allergies or possible adverse drug interactions?
- Is the community's medication management process routinely reviewed and improved upon when necessary?