Windows-Live-Writer-The-expanding-role-of-pharmacies_B96F-pharmacy_thumbAs a family caregiver, my local pharmacy has been a great resource for me in the care of my aging loved ones.

Besides stocking a cornucopia of items I never thought I’d be searching for—liners for adult diapers, oral rinse for dry mouth, compression stockings—my pharmacy offers a valuable service I never knew existed.

While caring for my dad, my mother and I took advantage of CVS’s “brown bag” review of prescription medications. At one time, my father was taking 13 different medications at eight different times during the day.

We gathered all of his prescriptions as well as his over-the-counter medications and brought them to his CVS pharmacist. She reviewed the prescriptions and doses and checked for any possible interactions.

Since my father has a chronic health condition (Parkinson’s), is being treated by more than one physician and takes over-the-counter medications, it was really helpful to have all of his medications reviewed as a whole.

For example, we learned one of the supplements my father was taking interfered with a prescription drug that was vital to the treatment of his Parkinson’s.

In addition, my father was instructed to take one of his medications at 10 p.m., but he and my mother are often asleep by that time. The pharmacist suggested an alternate schedule my mother could review with my father’s physician.

CVS has also been studying caregiver compliance with their medication regimen.

In a study they conducted with Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, they found that 45 percent of people who provide care and support to relatives are more likely to forget to take or refill their own medications, or to stop taking their medications if they feel better than they are to neglect providing medications to a loved one they are caring for.

Another pharmacy, Walgreens, offers a wealth of online support for family caregivers.

A section of their website,  topic/ pharmacy/caregivers-info, is dedicated to family caregivers. One of the things the site contains is a caregiver authorization form. If a senior wants a family caregiver to have access to their medical and health information, they fill out the form and submit it to their pharmacist.

Walgreens’ site also includes a caregiver resource library as well as a listing of products in categories such as bathing and skin care, or bathroom and home safety.

In 2011, Rite Aid pharmacy received a Media Vanguard Award for its series “Giving Care for Parents,” online videos that offer guidance on health issues—dementia, diabetes, cancer, injuries due to falls, etc.—and related financial and emotional issues.

Pharmacists understand that supporting family caregivers improves the lives of both the caregiver and the care receiver. In the coming years, the pharmacists’ role in assisting family caregivers is expected to expand.

Physicians caring for a person with Alzheimer’s are generally not focused on the caregiver or on the burdens placed on them.

According to new research, because pharmacists are trusted, respected and readily available, they can participate in the care of both patient and caregiver in many ways.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the pharmacist’s primary interaction turns from the patient to the caregiver.

Caregiver distress is a major concern in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, affecting both the caregivers and the care receiver. Because of the pharmacists’ regular interaction with caregivers, they are ideally suited to identify caregiver distress and to offer support and information to improve outcomes for both patient and caregiver.

Pharmacies will play a much greater role in supporting family caregivers in the future—ensuring caregivers stick to their medication regimen, identifying caregiver distress and suggesting resources and products that can help in the care of an aging loved one.

If you are a family caregiver, consider your pharmacist a “care partner” and find out what programs they offer.

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