Are you managing, organizing and coordinating medications for a loved one and/or for yourself? According to the report “Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care,” by AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) and the United Hospital Fund (UHF), 46 percent of family caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks for care recipients with multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions. 78% of family caregivers who provided medical/nursing tasks were also managing medications, including administering intravenous fluids and injections which there were not trained for. Another recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found one in five caregivers need help talking with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Adverse medication costs
Medication management is a growing and costly problem for caregivers, seniors and at-risk individuals in the United States. Failure to take medications as prescribed by your physician causes more than 1.5 million preventable medication-related adverse events. According to the 2009 New England Health Institute (NEHI) data, the cost to the US health care system is approximately $290 billion annually. According to the National Council on Aging, older adults are the nation’s largest consumers of prescription and over-the-counter medications. On average, the older adult takes 4-5 prescription medications and 2 over-the-counter medications a day. According to a study of older adults taking five or more medications, 35% experienced an adverse effect from at least one, 63% required physician intervention, 10% required and ER visit, and 11% were hospitalized.Twenty-eight percent of all hospitalizations among older adults were found to be medications related 11% for nonadherence. Medication errors are the 5th leading cause of death for older adults and can create costly and serious, even catastrophic, health problems. There are estimated 7,000 deaths per year due to adverse medications events.
Caregivers Burden – Medication Management
Medications while helpful or even lifesaving, can come with several related problems such as medications interactions, side effects, contraindications or allergic reactions. When taking several medications, the chance of adverse effects increases. Caregivers unfortunately sometimes become caregivers overnight and are expected to master how to do everything else including balance work, children, and their own health and manage medication for their loved ones without prior training or advice. This is where pharmacists can help. Pharmacists continue to be underutilized resources. They are trained experts who educate, train, work and collaborate with physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers to manage medication related issues and improve patient outcomes. The likelihood of medication errors occurring decreases substantially when patients know their pharmacist and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking the pharmacists’ advice. Pharmacist is part of a health care team, working to ensure the best selection and management of your prescription and nonprescription medicines.
As a clinical pharmacist, a parent, and a caregiver, here are my top tips for caregivers on medication management below. Caregivers in doing everything for others tend to not ask for help from others. Caregivers should ask questions and more questions. Ask for help. Feel empowered.
Remember – October is American Pharmacists Month and the team this year is “Know Your PHARMACIST, Know Your MEDICINE.” Caregivers – practice this daily for patient safety & better healthcare outcomes!
Contributor and #treatdiarieschat Guest 10/16/12 – Dr Goldina Erowele, (PharmD) – Clinical Pharmacist, Caregiver, Patient Care Advocate & Cofounder, CareNovate.com