In-Home Caregivers Can Help Manage Mom or Dad's Medications

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  

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Most families agree that using a pill organizer is the easiest and most efficient way to manage an aging parent's medications. However, the overwhelming question is who will take on the responsibility of filling them. Many seniors have a spouse or family member that willingly assumes this responsibility; however, others are not so lucky. I have observed some families who commit to making long distance monthly or bimonthly visits to stock up multiple pill boxes for their loved ones. Other seniors are fortunate to have a helpful neighbor, fellow church member, or friend that takes on this job. Still, many families find the best solution is to hire a nurse through a home care agency.

Be mindful that only an RN or LPN is authorized to undertake the duty of pre-filling medication boxes. CNAs (certified nurse assistants), HHAs (home health aides), or other unlicensed home care workers are not qualified to perform this job. As an RN and home care agency manager, I was often hired by families to prefill medications boxes for their loved ones. My nursing responsibilities also extended to monitoring adverse effects and consulting with physicians about necessary medication changes. Nurses act as a liaison between the senior and their physician to safely supervise medication, and to help circumvent medication issues resulting in illness or hospitalization. Medication management by a nurse eases the burden on long distance families, while giving them peace of mind. Even families who live nearby, or even with, their aging parents recognize the value of regular home visits by a nurse to oversee medications.

Once the task of prefilling your senior's pill boxes is accomplished you may face an additional challenge of ensuring that medications are actually taken by Mom or Dad. This might not be difficult if your loved one has a penchant for routine and remembering to take meds. However, many are not so lucky and medication compliance becomes tricky. Many aging parents have a certain amount of memory loss, leading to obvious quandaries with medications. Physical impairments such as vision and hearing loss, paralysis from strokes, and limited mobility also contribute to predicaments with medication compliance and safety. The widespread dilemma of those suffering with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias add up to enormous medication obstacles.

Moreover, medications prescribed for our elderly parents are typically very important to their health and well-being, making poor compliance a consequential concern. Again, here lies the challenge of who will undertake the responsibility to ensure compliance with medications on a daily basis. As with the medication preparation task and prefilling pill boxes, some families are fortunate to have a willing and able volunteer. Reminding and administering medications is a demanding task requiring a great deal of time; it is a huge responsibility and can be an overwhelming commitment. Often well-meaning family members and friends are burdened with their own daily obligations to attend to which impedes overseeing their senior's medication compliance. Consequently, hiring a CNA (certified nurse assistant) or HHA (home health aide) through a homecare agency to manage medication reminders may be the best, most reliable, and most sensible solution.

CNAs can manage day to day reminders for your elderly parents to take their medications, and report to family any difficulties that may arise. They can also be tasked to ensure prescriptions are refilled in a timely manner to avoid running out. Take note, the CNA or HHA that you hire is not authorized to physically administer the medications from prescription bottles. However, the aide can remind, prompt, and assist your loved one with taking medications from prefilled pill boxes. Therefore, it becomes even more obvious as to the important role of whom fills the pill box. Some families take control of their loved one's medications by hiring a home care agency for all medication responsibilities. The agency can provide a nurse to prefill medication boxes in conjunction with an aide to assist with medication compliance.

CNAs can be hired full-time or part-time, depending on the needs of your aging parent. Most of the time aides are hired to perform other tasks to assist your senior, such as bathing or meal preparation, in addition to medication reminders. In this manner, your aging parent's needs and daily routines are better accommodated while at the same time their care becomes more cost effective. This is a fantastic way to ensure a well-rounded home care plan and make certain your aging loved one's medication requirements are met. Sometimes things are best left to hired professionals!

Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 44 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

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