People of all ages can have difficulty managing their medications, but this is especially true for seniors who may face physical limitations, memory loss, and multiple chronic conditions. Add to this the complexity that coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing has created for caregivers and older adults, and you have a perfect storm for medication non-adherence, which is estimated to account for 10% of hospital readmissions, nearly 25% of nursing home admissions, and 20% of preventable adverse drug events in older adults.
So, what is medication non-adherence? According to the American Pharmacists Association, non-adherence includes delaying or not filling a prescription, skipping doses, splitting pills, or stopping medication early. In addition to generating an estimated $100 to $289 billion in health care expenses annually, non-adherence takes a toll on the health of seniors who may be on long-term medication and need ongoing, consistent care.
Millions of older Americans currently depend on a home aide or family caregiver for help with their medications, but the current COVID-19 crisis is causing lockdowns and restricted visitation rules at nursing homes, while independent seniors are isolated in their homes. As a result, medication adherence is at risk for all older adults. In addition, they are at risk of suffering from loneliness as a result of extended isolation and a disruption in their social connections.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver, or if you’re concerned about medication management for a loved one or family friend during the current health crisis, here are three strategies to stay socially connected to loved ones and help ensure they take the right medication at the right time.
- Use technology to establish a routine and method of reminders. Following a simple and memorable routine and reminder system can help aging loved ones remember to take their medications throughout the day. Technology can be an effective way to help older adults stay on track with medications, even if a caregiver cannot be there in person. Consider setting reminders on a cell phone for older adults, using electronic pillboxes, enlisting the help of apps, and employing a two-way, interactive medication management system that allows caregivers to interact with seniors to confirm they are taking their meds.
- Take advantage of pre-packed medication and bulk pharmacy options. Being prepared with the healthcare essentials – especially prescription medications – is critical for minimizing contact with at-risk populations during lockdowns and social isolation. By taking advantage of options to order multi-dose, pouched medications or a 90-day supply of ongoing medications from your pharmacy, and using curbside pick-up or delivery services, you can ensure that seniors take medications as directed while minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
- Maintain social interaction with regular calls and video chats. Research has revealed a positive correlation between social interaction and physical health, especially for older adults. The use of video-enabled technology is exploding in response to the current health crisis, as families and caregivers attempt to cope with the anxiety and fear that social distancing creates. Choose the technology platform that works best for the seniors in your life and collaborates with care teams to make the most out of video chat and medication management capabilities.
When taken correctly and consistently, medication can change a person’s life. For starters, the right treatment plan can promote independence for patients managing chronic conditions at home or it can promote healing and improvement in health status that allows patients to enjoy the things they love in life. Thanks to new and emerging technologies, patients and caregivers can realize better care coordination; have access to important information from providers; and benefit from a more satisfying, high-value care experience. And most importantly, the right technology can help loved ones age gracefully and in their best health.
By Lisa Lavin, Founder and CEO, Ōmcare
About the Author
Lisa Lavin is the founder and CEO of Ōmcare. The Ōmcare Home Health Hub™ gives caregivers of all types the ability to see and speak to those who need assistance with medication adherence. The easy-to-use Ōmcare system is designed to facilitate remote monitoring, medication reminders and dispense and visual confirmation of medication consumption – giving family members greater peace of mind. Learn more at www.omcare.com.