Improving medication safety for people with dementia

A study led by the University of Newcastle received $544,096 in funding to improve the safety and outcomes of people with dementia after they are discharged from hospital.


University of Newcastle (UON) health services researcher, Associate Professor Ashley Kable, said people with dementia are particularly vulnerable to medication problems after they are treated in hospital.


“People with dementia are cognitively impaired, which makes it really difficult for them to remember when to take medications or how many tablets,” Associate Professor Kable explained.


“Medication generally changes for patients once they’ve been treated in hospital, which makes self-administration even harder for people with dementia and the responsibility often falls back on to carers,” she added.


The study will investigate whether a safe medication strategy, involving a clinical pharmacist review of medicines and routine home checks, can reduce readmissions to hospital.


“We will be adopting a routine strategy for people with dementia at the time of discharge to make sure their medication management is much safer and managed better to reduce the potential need for further acute care services,” Associate Professor Kable said.


“Currently, home medication reviews can be requested by a general practitioner following a patient’s discharge from hospital, but it’s not always done,” she added.


Associate Professor Kable, a member of the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s* Brain and Mental Health Group, said the study will also investigate whether a safe medication strategy can help alleviate the burden for carers.


“Looking after dementia patients who are quite sick can be a highly stressful situation for carers having to administer medications. Through the study, we will also measure carer burden and see if it’s improved by managing medications better,” she said.


The study is one of 42 projects funded by the Department of Health to support innovation in dementia and other aged care services.


Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt, said the grants would help the aged care sector to respond to consumer-directed care and the challenges of dementia.


“We know Australia’s population is ageing, and we know the aged care system must adapt to meet the community’s changing needs,” Minister Wyatt said.


“These projects will help ensure our aged care system is able to deliver high-quality and more innovative services, now and into the future,” he added.


* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.


7 August 2017.