Caregivers play an essential role in the United States. There are 34.2 million Americans who have provided unpaid support to an adult over the age of 50 in the last year, according to the National Alliance of Caregiving.
When advancing dementia made Peter Donaldson, 95, unable to stay alone in his house any longer, his daughter, Tracey, moved him into her own home to provide a greater level of personalized care. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, when patients of long-term care facilities were being significantly impacted by the virus, she felt it was the best option for him.
As someone with dementia, it was important for Peter to have the comfort and security of familiar faces around him for his well-being. In a long-term care home, he would have to be separated from his beloved dog and constant companion, Missy. “You could almost gauge what kind of day he was having based on his reaction to the dog,” recalls Tracey.
As a mother of two, who also worked full-time as an educator, she led a busy life with a range of responsibilities. Though she had assistance from her husband, they were unable to provide the 24-hour care necessary to her father as his dementia worsened and he became more prone to roaming at night and attempting to leave their house. She enlisted help from personal support workers to safeguard his health and wellness.
Peace of mind with medication adherence packaging
With various caregivers in the mix, it gave Tracey peace of mind to know everyone knew whether her father had taken all of his prescribed medications, thanks to blister cards – a kind of medication adherence packaging that provided a week’s worth of his pills at a time, sorted into individual, sealed blisters for night and daytime use. With just a glance, they were able to see if the meds for the day had been dispensed, including ones for hypertension and sleep, along with vitamins and supplements recommended by his doctor.
“The blister cards made a huge difference for us in many ways,” she says. “They were terrific. The pharmacy would send them to the house, so we didn’t have to coordinate a time when we could go and pick them up. This helped take some of the pressure off from us.”
Over the 17 months that Tracey provided care to her father in her home, he went to the emergency room six times by ambulance. “One of the first things the paramedics would ask us was what medications was he taking,” she recalls. “I was able to provide them with the blister card where his medications and the doses were listed. All the current information was there at our fingertips and saved precious time in a crisis situation.”
Caregivers find dealing with medication difficult
Ordering medications and ensuring they are taken properly is a common responsibility for caregivers. As noted in Families Caring for an Aging America (published on the National Library of Medicine website), 65 per cent of caregivers for high-needs adults help with medication management.
It’s a task many caregivers find daunting and stressful. A report from AARP Public Policy Institute looked at family caregivers providing care to spouses and found that 73 per cent of spouses said medication management was one of the two most difficult medical/nursing tasks performed daily. It’s a task that continues to be a significant stressor for caregivers and contributes to role overload. Stress and strain also have a negative effect on their well-being.
“it gave Tracey peace of mind to know her father had taken all of his prescribed medications, thanks to blister cards – a kind of medication adherence packaging that provided a week’s worth of his pills at a time.”
The AARP report also asked family caregivers (spouses and non-spouses) about who prepared them to manage medications. About 60 per cent said they learned to perform the task largely on their own. The report concluded that family caregivers had a “striking lack of preparation to manage these difficult tasks.”
It underscores the need for additional resources for caregivers, including looking to their pharmacy for solutions to address medication adherence and management issues. Speak to your pharmacist to learn more about the tools available to help caregivers, including medication adherence packaging and blister packs.
Produced with support from Jones Healthcare Group.