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Dane County Pharmacists Work To Reduce Elderly Falls By Doing Medical Checks

Comprehensive Medication Reviews Aim To Prevent Falls, Avoid Medication Interactions

Jamie Collins fills out forms
Jamie Collins fills out forms before getting a comprehensive medication review Monday at the Allied Wellness Center on Madison’s South Side. The medication checks are a partnership between United Way of Dane County and the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. Shamane Mills/WPR

With the help of pharmacists, United Way of Dane County is trying to help area seniors avoid medication mix-ups, missed pills and serious side effects by checking what they take for conditions ranging from high-blood pressure to heart conditions.

Since 2011, the Comprehensive Medication Review Initiative has allowed pharmacists to complete more than 1,000 medication reviews to check for possible interactions and other unwanted effects for high-risk, older adults who take an average of 16 medications, according to the Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative.

The effort’s aim is to prevent older people from falling. The state of Wisconsin ranks second in fall-related deaths in the U.S. among those aged 65 and older, with a rate twice the U.S. average.

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“That’s the overarching objective. It’s aligned with United Way’s agenda for change and keeping older adults safe and independent at home,” said Helene McDowell, of the United Way.

McDowell was registering participants at a medication review event at the Allied Wellness Center on Madison’s southwest side on Monday.

“A lot of times medications may interact with each other. Sometimes, the medications can make people dizzy and make older adults more prone to falling. So, like insulin, which people take for diabetes or high-blood pressure medications,” said Taylor Waterson, a pharmacist who was going over medications with seniors.

Last year, pharmacists performed 160 medication checks in Dane County, and McDowell said they’re hoping to increase that by 30 percent this year at senior centers, older adult housing complexes as well as in neighborhood settings.

“We’ll go anywhere community partners want us to go,” said McDowell.

Gloria Manadier-Farr is a member of Mothers in the Neighborhood, a group in the Allied Drive area of Madison that joined forces with the effort and reached out to older adults to set up hour-long appointments for a review of their medications.

“We agreed to support it because there is a need here in our community. Some are intimidated by the mediation they take. We had concerns about whether seniors were taking their medications on time or if they’re even taking them at all,” said Manadier-Farr.

Some seniors say they face obstacles to getting their medication.

“A lot of times, I can’t pay for my medicine or I can’t get it. It may be out of range or I don’t have bus fare,” said Jamie Mae Collins who takes medication for asthma, high-blood pressure and chronic back pain.

The medication review helps ensure patients are taking their pills as intended.

“Sometimes, we assume that seniors really understand the instructions on medications and a lot of times they don’t. They may not understand if it needs to be taken with food or without. So, this program partnering with United Way is really very helpful,” said Carmella Harris, who is also with Mothers in the Neighborhood.

In addition to medication checks, staff also does blood pressure checks, explains how to safely dispose of medication and offers informational pamphlets on a number of topics, including alcohol abuse among seniors and tips for avoiding falls through strengthening exercises.