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Feature Article Medication Dispensers Promote Health & Independence

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If you have an aging loved one you may worry about keeping track of their daily care tasks, and medication can be particularly complicated. 

According to research conducted by AARP, those age 65 and older take an average of four different prescription medications each day but the National Council on Patient Information and Education reports that almost 40 percent of seniors are unable to read a prescription label and 67 percent are unable to understand the information given to them about their prescription.

“For seniors who want to stay in their own home but who have difficulty taking their medications correctly, a medication dispenser can be a great tool,” said Kevin Russell, RPH, Outpatient Pharmacy Operations Manager of Samaritan Health Services. “It allows them to maintain a certain level of independence while giving family the peace of mind that Mom and Dad are getting the correct medications.”

Different needs, different dispensers
Pill boxes with spaces for daily medications that the user can open and take themselves are good for those who just need help remembering whether or not they’ve taken their pill today, and work best if there is someone else making sure the medication is being taken as prescribed. 

“Pill boxes by themselves aren’t as effective unless there’s someone else who is helping the user, or there are other types of training or motivation to take the medication correctly,” said Russell.

If a pill box isn’t the right solution, an automatic medication dispenser offers more precise tracking for caregivers or family members. Automatic medication dispensers are a locked box where several weeks of medication can be sorted and loaded. The dispenser gives an alert when it’s time for the medicine and the user pushes a button to distribute the proper medication. The dispenser can give instructions such as “take with food,” and also gives alerts such as “time for insulin” if the medication needed is not a pill. 

Increasing medication safety

Research published in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacology found that about 50 percent of chronically ill older adults do not adhere to their prescription medication schedule. Missing medication or taking too much medicine if you’ve forgotten whether or not you’ve already taken your dose, can be dangerous, potentially leading to hospitalization or even death. 

Automated medication dispensers with monitoring can be available as subscription programs. Those additional services provide an alert for the caregiver or family member if the patient misses a dose, and loved ones can remotely monitor whether medication is being taken as prescribed.

Staying out of the nursing home
The Journal of American Health Care Associates reports that up to 23 percent of nursing home admissions are because patients are unable to manage their own medications. A related study in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy found that seniors who had a medication management program were 66 percent less likely to be admitted to a nursing home.

“An automatic medication dispenser can help seniors stay in their own home longer,” said Carol Hensley, manager of Samaritan Health Services’ Lifeline, which administers an automatic medication dispenser subscription program. “For seniors who are healthy and active and just need help remembering when to take their medications, this is a great way to keep them healthy and avoid medication complications.”

“Whether you use a pill box or an automatic medication dispenser, it is important that there is assurance that a person safely takes their medication,” said Russell. “We want the patient to be safe and the family to feel reassured.”

Pill boxes or medication dispensers can be found at your local pharmacy or medical supply store. Interested in more information about Samaritan’s automatic medication dispenser program? Visit samhealth.org or call 541-812-4703 or
1-888-901-2441.