Safe Management of Medications for People with Dementia



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Since medications should help patients and not harm them, the goal of this project was to improve the safety of medication management in the home care of dementia patients. If the wrong medications are combined with each other, it can result in potential symptoms such as heart rhythm disorders, dizziness, confusion, and an increased risk of falling. This is particularly the case with older people. Over-the-counter medications, such as those for the common cold or for insomnia, or even food supplements, also need to be considered. It is often the case that a doctor is not aware of all the different medications that a patient is actually taking. The risk of unwanted medication interactions increases with the number of different medications taken.

In order to increase the safety of medication management, everybody involved - including the patients themselves, their family, their family doctors and specialist doctors, their pharmacists, their caregivers - first need to know exactly what medications the dementia patient is taking. This might sound straightforward; however, tablets or their dosages are often changed in practice without all of these different actors being informed about the fact. In the project, a bundle of measures were elaborated which contribute greatly to increasing the safety of medication management for patients who are co-treated by different doctors. These measures cover a wide range of activities, including the provision of advice about how to store a specific medication properly, clarification about when and by whom the tablets or drops were prescribed, and the suggestion that when a family doctor prescribes a new medication or refers a patient to a specialist, she should always attach an up-to-date medication plan to the required documents. As long as everybody involved in the process agrees to the use of a so-called BMP medication plan that is available in Germany, and is prepared to ensure that such a plan is always kept up to date, the risk of unwanted medication interactions can be greatly reduced.

The project "Medikation - aber sicher" was funded by the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia from May 2018 to July 2021. Project partners were the Public Health Authorities in Heinsberg, Caritas homecare, day care provision from the St. Josef's home for senior citizens and the St. Josef's nursing home, Business Information Systems and Electronic Business at RWTH Aachen University, headed by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Kai Reimers, as well as pharmacists, family doctors, and specialist doctors located in the town of Wegberg.

More detailed information on the results of the project is provided on the webpages of the a.m. department in the School of Business and Economics.

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