A bit of arthritis. High cholesterol. Diabetes. Aging takes its toll on everyone. As health issues mount, so do the number of prescription medications. A hodgepodge of pill bottles lining a kitchen windowsill or crowded into a bathroom drawer can be a dangerous way to manage medication.
Take one drug twice daily, another only at bedtime, a third with meals — it’s easy to make a mistake. Aging family members can have a difficult time sorting through an ever-increasing assortment of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and other supplements. The problem can be magnified by possible memory and other issues.
Personalized Help Via Technology
While the everyday pill box can help keep things organized, there are organizations around the region that sort and deliver prescriptions in personalized pouches. One example is the Cleveland area-based Exactcare Pharmacy.
With no additional cost beyond the usual pharmacy charge, the company will provide an in-home assessment of all medications that someone takes.
A trained staff member looks at every prescription and over-the-counter medication, contacts each physician to review dosages and other details and turns the information over to the company’s online pharmacy. All insurance claims and other paperwork are handled by Exactcare. Drugs are sorted and packed into carefully marked pouches that detail the day, time and other dosage information. The box of drugs, including any inhalers, diabetic supplies and over-the-counter medicines, is delivered to the home with no shipping charges, says Dale Wollschleger, company founder and president.
It’s best suited for people who take five or more medications regularly. Antibiotics, for example, are taken for a specific amount of time and don’t lend themselves to the program.
Wollschleger, a pharmacist, had worked with mental health patients and devised a system to help them take multi-doses of medications. He knew the system could be helpful to others, so he started Exactcare.
“Safety is a huge factor in this,” he explains. Often, senior citizens are hospitalized or move to assisted living facilities because they have a difficult time managing their drugs.
Of every 100 prescriptions written, between 50 and 70 are taken to a pharmacist. Of those, between 46 and 66 are filled. The numbers become more sobering; only 25 to 30 of the medications are taken properly and just 15 or 20 are refilled as prescribed, Wollschleger says.
A glance at the pre-dosed, pre-sorted Exactcare packaging can tell a family member or patient if he has taken the correct drug in the correct dose at the correct time.
Pharmacies Provide Extra Services
People may be surprised at the variety of ways pharmacies try to help people manage their medicines, regardless of age, says Stuart Deal, a pharmacist with Klein’s Pharmacy and Medical Equipment in Akron.
“We try to make it as streamlined as possible,” he says. Klein’s uses two systems to help keep pills organized: Doc-U-Dose and RxMap. Doc-U-Dose uses envelopes with four individual pouches for each day to separate doses into morning, noon, evening and bedtime. Each is meticulously labeled. RxMap employs a similar packaging system but uses a trifold card. Each card represents one week of medications. With each, the pharmacist can include over-the-counter medications and vitamins.
Deal and other pharmacists are liaisons who coordinate physician prescriptions, insurance reimbursements and the needs of patients.
Klein’s most frequently uses a delivery service to get the “compliance packaging” into the hands of clients if patients or caregivers can’t pick it up at the stores.
Dosing systems such as those offered by Exactcare and Klein’s can be customized to best suit the needs and abilities of patients and caregivers. A quick look at the packaging ensures that medications are taken in a timely manner and indicates missed doses.