This question arises often as the elderly transition to Senior Facilities. As we grow older, we tend to see our doctors and pharmacists more frequently than someone younger than 60 years old and thus, we build a very personal relationship with our medical “team”. Transitioning away from your home is stressful enough, but the thought of changing the medical team you trust can cause great distress. I have personally had my pharmacist contact my doctor to alert him that two drugs he prescribed for me did not mix! That’s the kind of people you want on your team and you don’t want to trade players! You do have a choice, but most Senior Facilities encourage you to use their pharmacy—strongly encourage you to use their pharmacy. I recently asked an owner of an Assisted Living Facility in Florida why they “strongly” encourage residents to use their pharmacy and I was a little surprised at his answer. I will repeat his answer here as given to me for your consideration.
Reasons to use the facility pharmacy…
- Using a facility’s house pharmacy may cost you a few pennies more than running to your local drug store, Publix, Wal-Mart or Costco for prescription drugs or bulk over-the-counter drugs. However, convenience is a huge factor in running around collecting all the prescriptions from the physicians, filling the prescriptions and delivering them to the facility in a timely manner. Assisted Living Communities can get in a lot of trouble if the medication is not available for distribution exactly as ordered by the physician. Timeliness is extremely important.
- Facility House Pharmacies deliver once or twice daily to the community, depending on the size of community or urgency of the medication. The pharmacies are on call 24 hours a day and have a very quick turnaround, ensuring the patient gets the medication the same day.
- The medication is packaged to make it easier for the facility techs and nurses to accurately distribute, store and re-order the medications as needed, before they run out to ensure no interruption in dosages given. This packaging also allows for ease in medication inventory so staff can accurately document and understand changes in a resident’s condition as a result of being given the medication.
- The inventory can also aid the facility staff in having the physician re-assess the medications and have PRN (as-needed) medications discontinued if they are not needed after a 30 day period. This can save the resident and family considerable money on an annual basis.
- Most facilities use pharmacies that are geographically local to the communities and work with a myriad of insurance companies including Medicare D programs.
Having the volume at the community, the House Pharmacies are usually good about re-evaluating the residents’ formulary to ensure the resident is paying the least amount possible by making sure most of the prescriptions are covered by their insurance companies and qualify for the lowest possible co-pays.
I also asked the tough question as to whether the pharmacy gave “perks” to the owners for the increased business and I was assured the perks came in the form of better service for their residents and overall lower cost for the residents. I was pleased to hear that answer as we have all heard of companies “buying” business or serving the good of the owner and not the customer! As I read back through the notes, I noticed the common theme in his answer was convenience and cost savings. The convenience was shared by both the resident and the facility while the cost savings were those of the residents. He also encouraged me to advise readers to ask for a comparison of cost of the drugs you are currently purchasing and compare to the cost using the House Pharmacy. Be sure to factor in your time to get the drugs, gas or taxi fees and just the hassle of keeping up with reordering.
As far as your medical team, it is going to grow larger as you will have lots of individuals providing care for you or your elderly parent at the Senior Facility. Hopefully those relationships will grow and flourish as you enjoy your new home! I hope this information helps your decision or at least provides another point of view on using the “house pharmacy” at a Senior Facility.
If you would like a list Independent Living Facilities, Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider www.helpforelderly.org.
If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about.
We look forward to reading yours.