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Pharmacists can help protect vulnerable older Australians

Photo: Pharmacists can help protect vulnerable older Australians
One hundred and sixteen aged care residents are hospitalised every day in Australia due to medication errors which could be prevented by expanding the role of pharmacists in the provision of health care for vulnerable older Australians, according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA).

“With the Royal Commission currently investigating how to improve aged care services, it is time for everyone to address medication management,” Pharmaceutical Society of Australia President A/Prof Chris Freeman said.

“In our submission to the Commission and representation to the Commonwealth, we have warned that people’s lives are being put at risk under the current system, which limits pharmacists’ capacity to use their expertise in the aged care setting.”

Use of medicines is the most common healthcare intervention in Australia. Ninety eight per cent of residents in aged care facilities have at least one medicine-related problem and over half are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine.
Dementia Australia has reported that about half of all aged care residents and up to 80 per cent of residents with dementia are receiving at least one psychotropic medication, despite evidence showing only about 20 per cent of patients with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia would receive benefit from antipsychotics. Antipsychotics can be associated with significant adverse outcomes, including falls, cognitive impairment and increased risk of stroke and death.

“Aged care staff are committed to the wellbeing of their patients and doing their very best, but many are not experts in medication management,” A/Prof Freeman cautioned.

“We know even with tools like dose administration aids, mistakes can still happen if we aren’t regularly checking that doses and medications are still appropriate for the resident’s health and do not interact with any new medications.

“Pharmacists are best placed to improve decision making to ensure the safe and optimal use of medicines for older Australians. Our pharmacist workforce is equipped and eager to contribute and we need more time for pharmacists on the ground in aged care.”

PSA is calling for pharmacists to be able to spend more time in aged care facilities to provide residents with advice and support with their medicines and medication management. Pharmacists can also assist in improving quality use of medicines facility-wide and reducing harm caused by overuse of medicines.

More investment in aged care regarding the safe and quality use of medicines should occur without delay to ensure Australians who have worked hard all their life, raised families, contributed to our community and are now entering their later years of life are treated with the care and respect they deserve.”

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