One of the most important decisions a family will make concerns the long-term care of aging parents. Moving your senior parents into an assisted living facility is the right choice made by millions of families around the country, yet it is one fraught with emotion; most adult children of aging parents naturally wonder about their decision. You want a homelike setting that provides your parents with as much autonomy as possible given their health status, yet you also need to know that they will be safe and their health needs will be properly addressed.
Because most assisted living residents take a variety of medications – an average of six, according to one study - it is imperative that assisted living medication management is a high priority. Happily, technology advancements have improved the entire medication management process – prescribing, fulfillment, dispensing, administering and monitoring.
Technology for self-administered medications
Many seniors entering an assisted living facility are still capable of a high level of autonomy and in fact, their sense of well-being depends on feeling as independent as possible. According to the Technology for Long-Term Care group, these simple technical solutions enable such residents to effectively manage, monitor and adhere to their own medication regime.
- Multi-alarm medication reminders/watches – These are programmed to remind the resident to take medicines at a predetermined time schedule.
- Multi-alarm pill boxes – These store medication correctly and provide reminder alerts to take medicines at the right time.
- Talking pill bottles – This clever product contains a recording device that enables the pharmacist or caregiver to record a message explaining medication administration; that message can be played back anytime by the resident to minimize confusion and forgetfulness regarding medication schedules.
Technology for delivered medications
Not all assisted living residents are able, or willing, to remain responsible for their medication regime. Also, more serious health conditions that can develop with age often require closer attention to medication management. Here especially, technology advances offer important benefits for assisted living residents.
- Electronic Medical Administration Record (e-MAR) – This increasingly-popular technology streamlines and computerizes the necessary collaboration among the groups involved in medication management. Better communication among physician, prescription fulfillment, facility management and caregiver are achieved with e-MAR. It essentially is a software system that tracks all resident medication-related activities, facilitates physician orders and administration scheduling and monitoring. It eliminates errors due to illegible handwriting or poor fax copy readability.
- Barcode technology – Already in wide use across industries and in hospitals, bar-coded medication matched to a patient’s unique barcode identifier greatly reduces the chance of medication errors.
- Electronic prescribing (e-Scribe) - Physicians and pharmacies are increasingly moving to electronic prescribing to reduce manual (paper) errors and speed response times. With supporting software, pharmacies can directly monitor patient and medication status; physicians can directly input and adjust prescription dosages or schedules without phone or fax delays.
- Automated Medication Dispensing Carts and Cabinets – Automated medication cabinets provide computer-controlled storage, dispensing, tracking and documentation of medication distribution, greatly improving safety and efficiency of assisted living medication management. Automated dispensing carts provide the same level of security, but in a mobile platform for use at the bedside; tracking software and electronically-locking drawers protect medicine supplies.
Technology advances in assisted living medication management help protect your parents from harm and make their life and that of their caregivers a more enjoyable experience. When choosing an assisted living facility, be sure to ask questions about its medication management system.
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