Clinical Pharmacist talks about ways seniors with cognitive disabilities can avoid medication errors
Seniors who take multiple medications are seven times more likely to require hospitalization because of an adverse drug event, say experts at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the ASHP Research and Education Foundation. During National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 3-19), the pharmacist groups want the public to know that pharmacists are crucial resources for managing medications correctly and avoiding problems, and they are sharing important tips that can help family caregivers protect their elderly loved ones from dangerous medication errors.
The risk of a medication error increases when cognitive disabilities, such as dementia, are involved. The Alzheimer’s Foundation estimates that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease and that about a half million Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 65 million people (29 percent of the U.S. population) provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year. Fifteen million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
“These patients are at greater risk for having medication safety problems at home after hospital discharge,” says Dr. Allison Paquin, a clinical pharmacist at VA Boston Healthcare System in Massachusetts, who works regularly with older patients with cognitive difficulties. “They often have more complex medication regimens and a decreased ability to follow those regimens. It is important for caregivers to know how to help them use their medicines safely.”
Dr. Paquin and a multidisciplinary team at VA Boston Healthcare System were responsible for an initiative that helped seniors with cognitive disabilities manage their medications, greatly reducing the rate of hospital readmissions and emergency department visits. This initiative, The PILL Service, earned the VA Boston Healthcare System the ASHP Foundation’s 2012 Award for Excellence in Medication-Use Safety. The award is sponsored by a grant from the Cardinal Health Foundation.
This interview is sponsored by the ASHP Foundation and ASHP.