Researchers at Aston University, Hull University and the UEA interviewed family carers, people with dementia, nurses, GPs and community pharmacists for the project.
Their year-long research found that as dementia develops the person struggles to manage their own medication and increasingly relies on support from family carers. This is often their partner, who may also be taking many medicines and finding the carer role stressful, thus increasing the risk of medication error.
The study showed that for some carers this was a real burden of responsibility and that they hid their anxieties.
Lead researcher Dr Ian Maidment, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at Aston said: “Our study found incorrect dosing, forgetting to give the medication and taking medicines which should have been stopped.”
Professor Chris Fox, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: “There can be severe health impact for both the patient and carer - too often in my clinical practice I come across patients and families overburdened and unclear about their medication regimes. This can result in more visits to their GP and hospital and is a cause of avoidable NHS admissions.”
Dr Andrea Hilton from Hull University added: “There is a substantial role for community pharmacists and their teams to assist carers; many pharmacists have day-to-day contact both with carers and people with dementia. Community pharmacy is in a unique position to support and embrace patient-centred care and this is currently under-utilised. This research highlights that community pharmacists should be working more with GP practices and have full access to patients’ medical records. Furthermore, home visits should be conducted for medication reviews.”
Barbara Woodward-Carlton a former carer and a member of the Alzheimer’s Society Research Network highlighted: “During the years I looked after my mother who had Alzheimer's disease I wish I had known what help I could have had from community pharmacists.
“My mother was an extremely pleasant person who always wanted to co-operate but found it incomprehensible that she should be taking any medication at all. At one point when she was very ill, I continued the medication she had been given including 'water tablets' without realising that she was dehydrated. I live with the shame of not knowing that as she was barely drinking and eating I should have stopped that medication. I welcome that community pharmacists are increasingly seen as those who can advise, educate and help those of us who care for others."
Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Seven in 10 people with dementia are also living with other health conditions and managing multiple medications which can be a tremendous challenge. Finding new and innovative ways to support people with dementia and their carers to safely and correctly age their medication is a focus for future research.”
Dr Maidment added: “People with dementia are amongst the most vulnerable members of society and need more support with medication management. We need to develop new ways of supporting people with dementia manage their management and then test how well these new ways work.”
Notes to the editor
About the study
A qualitative study exploring medication management in people with dementia living in the community and the potential role of the community pharmacist is published in the journal Health Expectations.
The research was funded by Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK), the principal funder of pharmacy research in the UK. Founded as a result of a merger in 2012 of two previous research funding charities, PRUK has a broad programme of research in place. PRUK funds both research projects and individual bursaries to improve skills across the pharmacy sector. More information is on their website www.pharmacyresearchuk.org
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Dementias Writing Group support was critical to develop this research. The NIHR Dementias Writing Groups are a central component of the framework for co-ordinating and supporting dementia research in the UK. The groups provide a route through which new ideas for clinical studies are developed.
Anyone interested in registering their interest in participating in other dementia research studies can sign up to Join Dementia Research online at www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk
Lead researcher Dr Ian Maidment can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0121 204 3002 / 07887 983117.
About Aston University
Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston held a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey. www.aston.ac.uk/50
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