Caregivers who don’t live with the senior they are caring for have a common and ongoing worry – medications. There are 2 primary concerns: are they remembering to take them, and are they taking them properly (with food, for example)? This worry is understandable because many seniors take medications that are essential to their health and well-being and medication management is extremely important. Medication management solutions have evolved over time, and medication reminders have been an important part of the solution.
The importance of medication management
Mismanagement of medications is one of the biggest contributors to ER visits and LTC/nursing home placement. Missing even one medication or taking too many doses within a certain time period can have life-threatening consequences. Caregivers know this -they know that medications are often one of the greatest buffers to declining health and illness. This is precisely why they tend to worry about medication and seek solutions.
Medication safety tips and medication reminders have been used to help with older adults’ medication adherence (as it is called by health care professionals). Medication reminders have taken on different forms:
- Pill boxes with slots for different times of the day
- Pharmacy created blister packs/dosettes that are filled with the medications for different times of the day and week
- Electronic pill boxes that sound an alarm when it is time to take medicine
- Phone apps that are both medication reminders and trackers
- Smart watches or wearable trackers that can receive notifications from a cellphone when it is time to take a medication
Getting there…but not perfect
The current medical reminders have been an effective solution for some, but not a perfect solution for everyone. Phone apps and smart watches or wearable trackers, for instance, often require visual acuity and a degree of comfort with technology that not all older adults have.
Pill boxes and dosettes have been a welcome development but haven’t really brought the worry meter down too much for caregivers. All it takes is one missed or incorrectly taken medication to incite the worry. One of the first things many adult sons and daughters do when they go to their parent’s home, for example, is check the pill box or dosette to see if the medications have been properly taken.
Many caregivers have resorted to the ‘old fashioned’ method of taking it upon themselves to call their parents when it is time to take the meds throughout the day (with or without a pill box or dosette). Any caregiver who does this knows that taking on this responsibility can weigh heavily.
The best of intentions but…
While the intentions are obviously good, how medication reminders play out can become uncomfortable for all involved. Most older adults want to feel both safe and independent in their home. They also don’t want to feel like they are being a burden. When a daughter or son checks their medication adherence, they can feel, alternately, patronized and controlled, or that they are, indeed, being a burden.
Most adult kids feel it is a privilege to do what they can to keep their parents as safe and healthy as possible. At the same time, there can be anxiety that comes with feeling responsible for parents’ health via medications. This anxiety can sometimes turn into frustration, especially if parents resent and/or resist the reminders. Adult daughters and sons can also feel uncomfortable with this role reversal of now telling their parents what to do (even if done in the name of support).
Tech development: ‘Ring of Support’
There is a recent technological development which can help remove some of the negative dynamics and feelings that can emerge. It also moves us forward in terms of effective solutions to medication adherence. It is called ‘Ring of Support’. In 2019, SE Health, with a technology partner, designed and tested this new service with 50 older adults and their family members. You can choose a fee-for-service plan that meets your needs. Customized and automated check-in phone calls are made to both remind your parent or the person you are caring for to take their medications. It can also provide wellness checks, provide you with updates, and the person can request instant access to a nurse or other health care professional.
‘Ring of Support’ could be one of those ‘win-win’ solutions- providing safety, independence and peace of mind for all. Caregivers can potentially feel less worried and not as controlling. For the parents, receiving these automated medication reminder calls can help them feel more independent and less of a burden.
Changing the conversation
At Elizz, we are always looking for solutions that work well for both the family caregiver and their family member. We also love solutions that take out the work part of caregiving so that the focus can be on the relationship. Opening a conversation with “How are you doing?” is preferable to “Did you take your medications?”
During this COVID-19 pandemic, drawing on virtual support is also a great addition to the mission of keeping seniors safe and well.
Want to see a demo or learn more? Let us know what you think!