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Sunday, March 9, 2008

I feel like a movie star: Medication reminder nurses and aides

Ida Canapp insists she would take her five medications and two vitamin pills every day whether or not a nurse's aide came to her Parkville, Maryland home to monitor her. But her niece, Renee Gowland, knows this is the dementia talking. "She wouldn't take them. Or she wouldn't know if she was taking the a.m. or p.m. doses."

At 82, Ida is energetic, hospitable and fiercely independent, with the help of Aricept, a drug that tempers the effects of mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease. Ida needs to take medicine for her diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and depression, and it’s hard for her to take them all at the right time.

Without assistance from an elder care group called Senior Helpers, based in Towson, Maryland, Ida would probably have to give up her home, where she has lived for more than 50 years, and move to an assisted living facility or nursing home, her niece said.

Through the MedServ program, Senior Helpers sends a registered nurse to manage Ida's medicine-taking. The nurse fills marked pill boxes every two weeks with Ida's medicines. She monitors the prescriptions and communicates with Ida’s pharmacy and doctors. An aide comes daily to fix meals and run errands with Ida, and reminds her to take her pills when appropriate – and watches her take them.

With so many people checking on her well-being, Ida says, "I feel like a movie star."

Her niece says this helps Ida "because she can stay here, she can go where she wants to go, and can do what she wants to do."

"About 23% of nursing home admissions is due to to mismanagement of medications," says Dr. Joan Chang, medical director at Good Samaritan Nursing Center. "Because people don’t have that social support, they don't have the means of ways of getting their medication taken appropriately, so they have to go to some kind of assisted living, where someone is there to help."

Advice to family members of forgetful seniors: Finding a way to help them keep taking their medicine might keep them out of a nursing home.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read a story on use of multiple drugs by elderly people.

Thanks to Tanika White for the source article in the March 9 issue of the Baltimore Sun.

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