Aging frequently means adding “a variety of pills” to the list of things you have to keep track of.
“We’ve found clients, when we go into their home, they pull out a suitcase of medication from years ago that they’re holding onto just in case,” said Dana McMahon, Rutland aging services director at the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging.
SVCOA, which provides services to seniors in Rutland and Bennington counties, announced Wednesday that it is launching HomeMeds, a prescription tracking program that was instituted last year in the northern part of the state. HomeMeds combines inventories by nurses or case managers of all the medicine — both prescription and over-the-counter — in a patient’s home with software designed to track everything and help spot medications that shouldn’t go together. Concerns get relayed back to primary care providers who make adjustments as needed.
“We’ve found folks bouncing around between multiple providers, everyone’s writing their own prescriptions and not necessarily knowing what anybody else is doing,” McMahon said.
The problem can be compounded, McMahon said, by patients holding on to medication like in her initial anecdote and using it long after they should stop.
“We run into folks who are put on a couple different blood-pressure medications,” she said. “We wind up in a situation where they wind up in the hospital because blood pressure is either way too low or way too high.”
McMahon said the software also generates a user-friendly list of all the medications that can be printed on a refrigerator magnet, providing an easy reference for any health care workers coming into the home.
Participation is entirely voluntary. McMahon said they will begin by offering the service to their clients who come to the agency seeking long-term planning options.
“They’re not in crisis at the moment, but they’re trying to be more proactive about the future,” she said.
McMahon said they get 10-20 such referrals a month. After 45 days, she said they plan to expand availability to the 1,400 people for whom they provide case management services.