Professional Home Care: Top Solution to Ensure Patient Medication Management

One of the most serious health challenges facing families with a senior or an ill person is “medication noncompliance,” also referred to as “non-adherence.” Whichever word you prefer to use, this legalese refers to people who fail to consistently take their medications exactly as the doctor prescribed them.

There is no better way to ensure that medication adherence happens than having someone available who can monitor the person, reminding them “It’s time to take your meds” and making sure prescriptions are refilled on time. The problems is, in many families, there is no one around 24/7 to ensure compliance. When this situation exists, it truly makes professional home care the best solution a family can find.

The fact is, an alarming number of adults simply do not follow their doctor’s orders when it comes to consistently taking their meds. The statistics are surprisingly shocking. According to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report,

20% to 30% of medication prescriptions are never filled;
50% of medications are not continued as prescribed;
25% to 50% of patients discontinue statins within one year of treatment initiation;
people with chronic conditions take only about 50% of their prescribed medicine

The American College of Preventive Medicine also cites low rates of adherence, reporting that a whopping 75% of adults are “non-adherent” in some way. It’s interesting to note that medication adherence decreases with the frequency that people must take a medication. The average adherence rate for medicines taken once daily is nearly 80 percent, but it drops to just 50% for people who must take medications four times a day.

The concept of non-adherence applies not just to people who don’t take their meds. Someone can be noncompliant in several other ways. It can include intentional or unintentional behaviors such as:

delaying or not filling a prescription or not picking up a prescription that has been filled
skipping or missing doses
splitting pills to save money
stopping a medication early
not taking medications properly with or without food as prescribed
not adjusting one’s diet to account for medications taken, such as consuming too much salt or fat or even drinking grapefruit juice which is not allowed for some medications;

The results of non-adherence are serious. Experts say that noncompliance accounts for 30% to 50% of treatment failures and leads to negative medical treatment outcomes, such as higher rates of avoidable hospitalizations, institutionalization for elderly people who are frail, and substantially increased healthcare costs. It accounts for 10% to 25% of all hospital and nursing home admissions. It results in 5.4 times increased risk of hospitalization, re-hospitalization, or premature death for patients with high blood pressure and 2.5 times increased risk of hospitalization for patients with diabetes. The CDC estimates that non-adherence cost US taxpayers an extra $100 billion annually in caring for people who didn’t consistently or correctly take their meds. And worst of all, non-adherence to medications is estimated to cause 125,000 unnecessary deaths annually.

This situation is already a major problem in the healthcare field. In one U.S. poll of people who were 65 years old and older, it was found that 51% take at least five different prescription drugs regularly, and one in every four people take between 10 and 19 pills each day. Of the people polled, nearly six in ten admitted to forgetting their medications now and again, especially for those people taking five or more medications.

The situation is only going to get worse. The World Health Organization estimated that by 2020, the number of Americans affected by at least one chronic condition requiring medication therapy will increase to 157 million. Estimates show that 32 million Americans already use three or more medicines daily—and this will mushroom as more and more people develop chronic diseases that often lead to taking more and more medications.

We might think that educating patients is the best way to improve compliance, but it seems that this is not true. The CDC says that the rates of medication adherence have not changed much in the last three decades, despite efforts by the World Health organization and Institute of Medicine (IOM) and many medical education programs for patients. Even the invention of medicine containers that have compartments for day and night medicines and specialized alarm clocks to remind people to take their medications, it truly seems that the best way to ensure that people are compliant with their medications is to have another human being around them.

The benefits of having a home care professional assist with medication compliance are far more numerous than you might think. A home care professional will not just remind the person to take their medication at the appropriate time, but will also monitor that it is taken with the right foods (or no food). The home care professional will make sure that the patient has actually swallowed the pill. Many families will tell you stories of coming home to find pills on the bathroom or kitchen floor, accidentally dropped and never taken.

We all know that people can be “quirky” when they are sick. Stories abound of seniors who stop taking their meds because they claim “The doctor is wrong; I don’t need to take this medicine every day.” There are seniors who cannot swallow very well and detest taking large pills or they hide pills under their tongue until a family member walks away. A home care professional can often be perceived as a more of an objective “coach” or “Personal Assistant” to the patient and thereby help ensure compliance better than a family member could.

The homecare professional has many responsibilities of great value to families, but medication compliance is certainly one of the most serious ones that patients and their families need to recognize as a real value for their loved one. Having a home care professional ultimately ensures adherence and in the long run, saves families worry, money, and even your loved one’s life.

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