Page Reviewed / Updated – January 21, 2021

Around 87% of seniors over 65 years old take some type of prescription medication. This should come as no surprise since many of the most common chronic conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis and hypertension tend to disproportionately affect seniors.

In some cases, taking the right medication could be a matter of life and death. For others, the right medication is used as a preventative measure or it helps to alleviate some of the effects of various medical conditions, such as pain associated with arthritis.

Additionally, some seniors are also using over-the-counter medication, which if done without a doctor’s oversight can be extremely dangerous. These reasons make medication management vital for seniors.

Why Is Medication Management Especially Important for Seniors?

While medication management is vital for people of all ages, the elderly face various obstacles that may prevent them from taking their medication properly. First, 40% of seniors over the age of 65 years old suffer from some form of memory loss. This condition can make it difficult for seniors to remember to take their medicine on time or forget that they’ve already taken it and take it twice. Both double dosing and skipped doses can be life-threatening or reduce the effectiveness of the medication.

Secondly, poor eyesight may prevent seniors from reading the prescription’s instructions accurately, which can also lead to over or underdosing. Even if the senior can read the instructions, they may find them too confusing to follow properly. This issue is especially true when adding new medications or changing the current dosage.

What Are Medication Management Solutions for Seniors?

Some caregivers and home health services offer medication management services. Health care professionals come to the senior’s home to either provide a medication reminder or to personally distribute the appropriate medication to the senior. While these services are effective, they can also be very expensive, especially for seniors who are not receiving other types of home care services.

An alternative solution is medication management systems. These dispensing machines are placed right in the senior’s home to assist with the medication management process. They are also very effective and offer a more affordable solution.

How Do Medication Management Systems Work?

Medication management systems assist seniors by alerting them that it’s time to take their medication. At the sound of an alarm or a phone call, the senior can simply press a button on the machine and the proper amount of medication is disbursed. The system also provides seniors with any necessary instructions, such as taking medication with food and water.

These machines can hold a 30-day supply of medication and account for up to 10 different types of prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs. They are filled monthly by a family member or other designated caregiver. Most machines also include a battery backup to ensure they still work even if the power goes out.

If the senior fails to take their medication at the right time, an instant alert is sent to all designated parties, including caregivers and family members. Some machines also lock any missed doses away to prevent double dosing.

Benefits of Medication Management Systems

The most important benefit of medication management systems is that they provide peace of mind. Family members can feel secure knowing that their loved one is taking the correct medication at the right time. They also know that they will be notified immediately if their loved one fails to take their medication for any reason.

Additionally, the support of a medication management system can enable seniors to remain living independently in their own homes longer. Finally, most medication management systems offer real-time status reports, which can provide doctors invaluable information about the senior’s health.

How Much Do Medication Management Systems Cost?

Medication management systems are sold under three different pricing models. Some services simply rent the medication dispensing machine and charge a monthly rental fee. These fees can range between $50 and $100 per month.

Other services require you to purchase the machine for an upfront fee ranging from $300 to $500 and then pay a monthly service fee of $15 to $25 per month. Seniors can also opt to purchase a dispersing machine with no monthly service fee. These higher-end machines typically cost between $500 and $1,000.

It’s important for family members to compare their options to determine which pricing model best fits their needs and their specific budget.

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Does Insurance Cover Medication Management Systems?

Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of medication management systems. In some cases, however, Medicaid may cover some or all of these costs. Specific waivers, such as the HCBS waiver, and programs like Money Follows the Person may help to cover some of these costs, especially if the machine doubles as a personal emergency response service.

Additionally, some veteran and assistance programs help seniors purchase these machines to assist with medication management. Seniors who cannot find financial support through other means may be able to obtain a tax deduction under the Medical Expense Credit when itemizing their taxes.