People with dementia need more support with their meds

People with dementia are struggling to manage their medication, exposing them to side-effects, medication errors and an increased risk of non-adherence to drug treatment. New findings from Pharmacy Research UK reveal that:

  • Dementia patients often struggle to manage their drug regimen
  • Community pharmacists could be utilised more to support patients and carers
  • Some carers find the responsibility of their role stressful.

Researchers at Aston University, Hull University and the University of East Anglia interviewed family carers, people with dementia, nurses, GPs and community pharmacists for the project. They found that as dementia develops, people struggle to manage their own medication and increasingly rely on support from family carers. This is often their partner, who may also be taking many medicines and finding the carer role stressful, increasing the risk of medication error. For some carers, this was a real burden of responsibility.

“Our study found incorrect dosing, forgetting to give the medication and taking medicines which should have been stopped,” says lead researcher Dr Ian Maidment, senior lecturer in clinical pharmacy at Aston University. Professor Chris Fox, consultant old age psychiatrist from UEA’s Norwich medical school, added that there can be a severe health impact for both the patient and carer.

“Too often patients and families are overburdened and unclear about their medication regimens. This can result in more visits to their GP and hospital and is a cause of avoidable NHS admissions.”

The research highlights that community pharmacists should be working more with GPs, says Dr Andrea Hilton from Hull University, and should have full access to patients’ medical records. Furthermore, home visits should be conducted for medication reviews.

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