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Medication Management in Assisted Living

Learn about assisted living medication management with Seniorly. Managing medication is one of the key services provided by assisted living communities.

By Marlena del Hierro Updated on Apr 27, 2023
Reviewed by Nipun Chopra · Reviewed on Dec 15, 2022

Medication management is one of the key services provided in assisted living communities. In fact, 85 percent of assisted living residents require help with their medications in order to maintain a healthy quality of life. This can range from keeping track of complicated dosing and timing, to simply handling difficult-to-open pill bottles. Therefore, residential staff play an important role in keeping residents healthy and safe. 

Accurate Administration of Medication

This is understandably the number one concern of many families. Ensure that you provide the community and staff with detailed instructions about dosage, timing and other considerations. One way an assisted living community can ensure accurate administration of medication is by documenting each administration of medication. Ask to view medication records to assess how thoroughly the assisted living community maintains its documentation.

The assisted living community might use an electronic health record system to help automate medication management and reduce human error. Packaging systems are another recent innovation you might see, as well: these help to organize doses and clarify instructions to make it easier for assisted living staff to manage and administer medications. There is more than one way of managing medications, but you should be able to get a sense of whether the staff is doing so effectively and safely.

Compliance With State Laws

Different states have different requirements regarding assisted living medication management. In some states, assisted living residents are allowed to administer their own medication without any help from the community's staff. In other states, assisted living residents may not take their own medication without help unless a healthcare professional has conducted an assessment. This assessment measures whether the resident can identify their medications correctly and understands any changes in their medication routine.

Even if an assisted living resident is able to handle their own medication, they may still need help opening bottles or reminders about when to take the meds. Ask your staff what their own regulations and restrictions are, and how they compare to your state's regulations. For important questions on medication management and other topics, take a look at our list of 73 questions to ask your assisted living community. 

Clear Communication With Physicians

Assisted living residents often undergo changes to their medication regimen, and the facility staff must be in regular communication with the residents' physicians to keep up with the latest directives. Your loved one’s physician should also be aware of their allergies, whether they habitually take over-the-counter medications, and some lifestyle information like their average caffeine intake, or whether they enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, as these can sometimes affect prescription medications. All new prescriptions or changes to prescriptions should be provided to the community in writing and become part of a resident’s file. Ask assisted living staff to see the written prescription record for your loved one, and check to make sure that alerts are posted clearly whenever a change is made to the medication routine.

Regular Reorders of Medications

You don't want any gaps in your loved one's medication regimen — in fact, in some cases, skipping a few doses of medication can be quite dangerous. It's very important, therefore, that your assisted living staff stay on top of the need to keep medication refills up to date at all times. Ask about their reordering procedures to avoid problems.

Monitoring Side Effects and Other Reactions

When a new medication has been prescribed or the dosage of an old one has been increased, it is important to observe your loved one for any noticeable side effects. Some seniors also have allergic reactions to some medications, and those must be monitored as well. Ask your assisted living community how they follow up on medication changes, how long they monitor for adverse reactions, and how they document and respond to any issues.

As a caregiver, you have the right to expect meticulous record-keeping and perfectly executed procedures regarding your loved one’s assisted living medication management. Check out how your community is following these guidelines. If your loved one resides at an assisted living nearby, give the community an in-person visit so you can feel confident that your beloved senior is well cared for.

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written by:
Marlena del Hierro

Marlena del Hierro is Vice President of Partnerships and Seniorly’s Lead Gerontologist. Marlena earned her Master of Arts degree in Gerontology from San Francisco State University and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development from California State University. She also serves in an advisory capacity for Jukebox Health. As Seniorly’s first employee, Marlena is a vocal advocate for evolving the aging paradigm, and is a frequent contributor to public discussions about aging. She has served as a resource for media outlets like WGBH, FOX News, CNBC and the Today Show.

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View other articles written by Marlena

Reviewed by:
Nipun Chopra

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