January 13, 2015

Electronic Pill Dispensers Help Couple Manage Medications

Marie Hoffman, Annie Reedy, RN, BSN, and Dick Hoffman review the proper use of the electronic pill dispensers being used by the Hoffman’s.

With each of them taking a dozen or more medications every day, Dick and Marie Hoffman needed some assistance in taking the right dosage, of the right pills, at the right times. With the help of their Community Nurse, Annie Reedy, and a “smart” electronic pillbox provided by the home health agency, they no longer worry about safely managing their medications. 

Due to a generous donor plus a grant from the Elk County Community Foundation Women Who Care Fund, Community Nurses obtained a number of MedSmart programmable, locked pill dispensers to assist patients in organizing their multiple medications.

With many older adults on a dozen or more medications, medication management can be a major challenge. A medication error from overdosing, missing doses, addiction, to forgetting to refill prescriptions is a serious health concern among seniors. For the Hoffman’s, organizing their pills was very confusing. Marie was taking a dozen medicines at different intervals, five times a day. The 13 medicines that Dick had to organize were taken three times a day.  With 25 different pill bottles in the home it was easy to make mistakes.

Marie began using Community Nurses home health services several years ago for foot problems and wound care, and has been a patient several times in the past few years. Community Nurses staff members currently help Dick manage health issues due to heart problems. According to Marie, “If it wouldn’t be for the Community Nurses and help from our daughter, Barb, we would be in a nursing home. I don’t know what we would do without them. Trying to keep up with all these medicines and our health problems is just too difficult for us.” Dick added,”The nurses are so efficient. You feel so relaxed with them and they really listen to you.” Dick is also checked on regularly by Amber Franco, RN, BSN, Telehealth Nurse, who monitors his condition for early signs of potential problems by reviewing results sent to her at the office through Dick’s telehealth machine installed in his home.

Dick’s pill dispenser is filled on a two-week basis during visits by his nurse, Annie. Even though Marie is no longer on service with the agency, she was able to keep her electronic pill dispenser as long as she needs it, and has help from family and friends in loading her pills. Her pill dispenser is loaded on a weekly basis due to the number and frequency of her medications.  There is no charge for the use of the device. When patients are through with the devices they are returned to the Community Nurses and sanitized in preparation for use by the next patient.

The Hoffman’s two med-minders are located in different rooms in the house, and each machine has a different alarm sound to alert Dick and Marie when it is time to take their medicine. The alarm is easy for them to hear, even when watching television in another room. The locked machine automatically dispenses the correct pills when triggered by the alarm, which rings at regular intervals until turned off. Once the current dose is dispensed, the unit automatically resets for the next reminder/alarm time.

The automatic dispensers have made a world of difference with medication compliance and overall well being for patients. The “smart” pillboxes and regular nursing visits are helping fragile adults stay healthier and remain in their homes longer.

 Community Nurses, Inc., an affiliate of Penn Highlands Elk, is a home care agency providing home health, hospice, private duty/home support services, and adult day care to the residents of Cameron, Elk and McKean Counties, and parts of Clearfield, Jefferson and Potter Counties.