Acute need for pharmaceutical support in elderly care: study
Medications are the most commonly used treatments in health care, especially for the elderly. But when not used correctly, they can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences.
Globally, the cost of medication-related harm exceeds $40 billion each year, and evidence indicates that between 5% and 20% of residents of aged care facilities experience an adverse medication event each month. More than half of this damage is considered preventable.
The federal government recently announced funding for on-site pharmacists to improve medication management in government-funded senior care facilities, starting in January 2023.
Researchers from the University of South Australia recently worked with 248 elderly residents at 39 aged care facilities in South Australia and Tasmania to assess the effectiveness of a pharmacist-led intervention.
Their study, funded by the Department of Health, found that regular visits by pharmacists to elderly residents can reduce medication-related problems and improve health outcomes.
For 12 months, pharmacists met with residents every eight weeks to record any new illnesses or conditions and monitor for any side effects or symptoms. They also looked at participants’ medications and monitored cognitive and physical health.
At each visit, pharmacists found that 60% of residents had problems with their medications. They made 309 recommendations for changing residents’ medication or monitoring their medication for change; and, for nearly two-thirds of the population, recommended reduced drug use.
Importantly, the study showed a significant change in participants’ cognitive scores, with those monitored by pharmacists being less likely to experience negative effects.
UniSA lead researcher Professor Libby Roughead said the research highlights an acute need for additional pharmaceutical support in the elderly care sector.
“Medications are the most prescribed health intervention for older adults, but they are also the catalyst for concern for many older residents,” Roughead said.
“People living in nursing homes depend on the support and care they receive, but previously residents only received a medication review every two years or sooner if needed.
“Our research highlights the need for personalized and ongoing support by pharmacists more frequently.”
Roughead praised government funding for pharmacists on site. This is a critical step forward and this development should embrace holistic pharmaceutical support, with pharmacists focusing on efforts to reduce drug harms, she said.
“It is important to realize that new on-site pharmacists will not only need to monitor and review medications, but also be able to recognize the early onset of medication-induced deterioration, such as changes in cognition or activity of a person, in order to prevent harm. such as hurtful falls or delirium.
“More comprehensive support will not only prevent the many medication-induced health problems currently experienced by elderly residents, but may also help prevent frailty and cognitive decline.”