Assisted Living Medication Management: 11 Strategies

Optimize medication management to boost resident safety.

Amanda McGrory-Dixon , June 21, 2024

Amanda McGrory-Dixon

When managing senior living communities, operational efficiency is key — especially regarding medication management for a delicate resident population. Unfortunately, according to an American Geriatrics Society study, the medication error rate in senior living communities is 42%.

Medication errors can result in adverse events for your residents and present a liability and financial risk for your community. 

In our work with more than 5,000 senior living communities, we’ve heard stories about medication management nightmares. We’ve gathered everything you need to know to protect your residents from medication errors, including 11 strategies for managing and administering medication with a powerful eMAR system.

Medication Management vs. Medication Administration

Most senior living communities — except independent living — handle resident medication as part of their day-to-day operations. This critical service helps patients control and improve their health by taking their medications as prescribed through a combination of medication management and medication administration.

Medication management refers to the high-level programs to oversee, track, and ensure medication is handled and prescribed safely. Part of medication management is medication administration, which is the practice of dispensing medications to residents. 

State and federal governments have medication management and administration regulations that senior living communities must follow. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in fines and other penalties. 

Benefits of Effective Assisted Living Medication Management for Senior Living Community Operators

Effective medication management has several benefits for the owners and operators of a senior living community as well as its residents. 

Statistics on senior living medications.
  • Improved resident health outcomes: Your residents will experience fewer medication-related complications and hospital admissions by administering medication correctly. Not only does this improve their quality of life but it also increases their resident satisfaction. This may even boost your reputation, which can help you with sustainable occupancy growth. 
  • Enhanced resident independence and satisfaction: If you have an effective assisted living medication management program in place, residents may be able to self-manage their medications. This takes some of the burden off your care staff while allowing your residents to feel a sense of control over their day-to-day lives. 
  • Improved staff efficiency: Some medication management systems are clunky and require excessive paperwork or data entry for your staff. An effective medication management system streamlines workflows and reduces your care team’s time on medication management, freeing them up for other tasks. With employee retention a key problem for senior living operators, improving staff morale can reduce staff turnover.
  • Reduced costs: By minimizing the number of adverse medication events, you can lower the number of residents requiring hospital stays, which cuts health care expenses for your residents and decreases costly time spent filing insurance claims and navigating claim denials. A strong medication management system is key to strong revenue cycle management

11 Strategies To Manage Medication in Assisted Living Communities

Fortunately, you can prevent many medication-related errors. Senior living operators should consider the following strategies to manage medication in their communities.

  1. Use a robust eMAR system.

Increasing numbers of senior living owners and operators are turning to software to streamline medication management and administration in their communities. For example,  Aline eMAR is considered one of the best assisted living software solutions, with automated med pass oversight that keeps your data safe while ensuring compliance with local regulations.

Click this image to learn more about Aline eMar.
  1. Use one pharmacy partner per community.

With so many residents taking different medications, your medication management process must be as simple as possible. By working with one pharmacy partner, you can eliminate any eMAR issues, minimize staff stress, decrease labor costs, and avoid medication errors.

Some pharmacy partners, such as PharMerica, even specialize in senior living, so you know they can handle your unique needs.

  1. Automate compliance wherever possible.

Adding compliance medication packaging, such as barcodes, can streamline dispensing, reduce errors, and automate record updates. This ensures your medication management system runs effectively, keeping your residents safe and your care staff happy.

  1.  Continually train your staff.

A survey of senior living nurses in England revealed that inadequate staffing and inexperienced staff contribute to medication errors.

Frequent medication management training sessions can ensure you adequately prepare your care staff to manage medications to reduce errors. Even if you don’t have high staff turnover, regulations, evolving technologies, and care techniques necessitate training for every staff member.

  1. Audit your medication management practices.

You can’t get better if you can’t identify your problem areas, so regularly audit and review your medication management protocols. Aline eMAR features reporting capabilities that allow you to identify these problem areas easily. Use the results to implement new strategies and initiatives to resolve any issues.

  1. Clearly communicate with your staff, residents, and their families.

Medication management goes above and beyond tracking who takes what medication and when. It’s also important to communicate with everyone involved — from your staff to your residents and their families.

Your staff should communicate any changes or concerns about medication to residents and their families. They should also be available to answer any questions or concerns.

  1. Store medication securely.

Secure medication storage is essential to prevent administration errors or the loss of medication. Storage areas, whether cabinets or rooms, should be locked and limited to authorized staff only. Organize medications by type within the storage to avoid mix-ups. Audit these spaces regularly to identify and remove expired medications.

  1. Standardize procedures for administering medications.

Standardize medication administration processes and guidelines across an entire community. You should always verify the resident’s identity, scan medications, and document administration to avoid errors.

  1. Educate your residents.

Abiding by medication administration guidelines isn’t just on your staff — it’s also on your residents to comply with care staff.

Educate residents and their families on their medications and why they must take them as prescribed. Be supportive and encouraging, and work with them to eliminate potential barriers to taking their medications, such as difficulty swallowing pills or side effects.

  1. Set medication reminders and monitor compliance.

Many eMAR software platforms allow you to program medication reminders when a medication is due, and you can run reports to track noncompliance, so you can identify patterns and resolve them.

  1. Review each resident’s prescription before they move in.

Part of the move-in process for new residents should include a thorough review of their medications. Many seniors take multiple medications that different providers may have initially prescribed, so review their prescriptions for potential interactions.

This also gives you the chance to communicate medication needs to your pharmacy partner to get in front of any potential supply issues.

A list of common medication errors in senior living communities and how to prevent them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about medication management and what it means for assisted living communities.

What Types of Communities Offer Medication Administration and Medication Management?

Independent living communities do not offer medication administration and medication management since, by definition, the seniors who live in those communities live independently without medical support.

All other acuity levels — assisted living, skilled nursing, senior living care, and memory care — offer some level of medication administration and medication management.

Do Medication Administration Guidelines Vary by State?

Each state sets its own medication administration guidelines, which may change frequently. It’s important to monitor these to retain your license.

How Does Medication Administration and Medication Management Benefit Residents?

Medication administration and management protect your residents from medication-related errors, also known as adverse events. Depending on the nature of the error, these adverse events may include anything from withdrawal symptoms to hospital admittance and even death.

How Many Medication Errors Occur in Assisted Living Communities Each Year?

It is estimated that 800,000 preventable medication errors occur in long-term communities each year. Fortunately, another study found that 87% of medication errors did not result in any negative medical effects for residents.

Manage Medications With Aline eMAR

Assisted living medication management isn’t just legally required — it can save a life by preventing medication errors that can send a resident to the hospital. Integrating a powerful eMAR system into your tech stack can benefit everyone at your senior living community, from your residents to care staff and the operations team.

Aline eMAR boasts a simple workflow, advanced pharmacy integrations, barcode scanning capabilities, chart alerts, narcotic inventory management, and more in an easy-to-use system. With our robust eMAR software, you can ensure compliance, support your staff, and improve pharmacy communication.

Book a demo today to discover how Aline eMAR can help you optimize and improve medication management in your senior living community, or download our our free resource “Your Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Best Senior Living Software.” We’ll share how you can use Aline to deliver high-quality, personalized care for each resident at scale.

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