Guide to Medication Reminder Services for Seniors

medication reminders for seniorsThere are so many things we have to remember on a daily basis, taking our medications is just one of those things. 

Staying on top of your senior loved ones daily medication regimen, and ensuring that they remember to take the correct medication at the correct time, can feel like a heavy responsibility. Well, that problem has been solved with medication reminder services for seniors. By utilizing the latest technology, mobile apps and alarm clocks provide seniors, or their loved ones/caregivers, peace of mind knowing they won’t ever forget to dose their medications on time. Mobile apps to phone call or text reminders, medication services make a world of difference in simplifying a seniors daily life. 

In this article, we will cover various service options available to seniors and their caregivers to remember medications, as well as the importance of such a service for the elderly. 

 

What is a Medication Reminder Service?

Medication reminder services, also known as pill reminder service, Medication Management Systems or Medication Adherence Technology, include a wide range of products and/or services with the same goal in mind – to remind individuals to take their medications in the prescribed dosages, at the correct times of day, in order to prevent adverse drug events (ADEs). 

On one hand, these types of services can be as simple as a pillbox provider, which sends patients pre-loaded pill organizers or individually packaged pills to be taken daily. On the other hand, full-on Medication Management Systems can be considerably robust. 

Did you know: One study found that nearly 60% of U.S. seniors do not take their medications as prescribed. The features of these types of systems provide peace of mind to both seniors and their loved ones. 

There are many different options available to seniors when it comes to medication reminder services, some include machines or devices, while others are simply services. Below, we discuss some of the best medication reminder services available.

 

Medication Management Systems

What are Medication Management Systems, and how do they work?

To start, a senior or their caretaker will be notified by either an alarm, a call, or a push notification to a special watch or device that lets them know it is time to take their medication. Some of the more “high tech” medication management systems come with a machine which is pre-loaded with their prescription medicines, so when they receive their reminder notification, they simply press a button on said machine and it will dispense the appropriate combination of medication. These machines are made with customizable features, such as a lock away element to prevent the possibility of double dosing. In addition, the machine will display special instructions, such as “take with food”, for prescriptions that may cause an upset stomach. 

If the senior fails to take their medication after being reminded, a status report is related to a central location over a phone line, cell phone or wireless internet connection warning caregivers or family members of the missed dosage. 

Once the dispensing machine is close to running empty, it can be refilled by family members or caregivers. There are also services that perform refills if a family member or caregiver is unable to do so. On average, these machines store anywhere between 10-30 days worth of medication, and can manage up to 10 different medications concurrently. In the event of a power failure, the machines have battery backups in order to remain functional. 

 

Medication Reminder Apps

When it comes to pill reminder service apps, there are several to choose from. These simple smartphone apps help seniors manage their medications, as well as their spouses medications if needed – thanks to the fact that may of these apps offer a “multiple profiles” feature. 

Medication reminder apps work by sending the user a notification, through either text message, phone call or email. Most of these apps also track each of your prescriptions, reminding you when it’s time to get a refill. 

Read user reviews and ratings for the medication reminder apps within your smartphone app store to find the one that best meets your needs. You can expect the majority of these apps to be free, or very inexpensive. 

 

The “Modern Pill Case”

If adherence to your prescription medication time schedule is an issue for your senior loved one, a great option would be to invest in a modern pill case. 

These plastic pill cases come with a lot of cool features, such as vibrations, sound effects or alarms that will go off when it’s time to take a particular medication. The best part? Most of them have 5 or more compartments, all with their own alarms that will beep or vibrate when the time comes to take that specific prescription. 

As if that weren’t enough, their compact size makes them ideal for jacket pockets, purses, or a backpack on the go.

 

PillPack

For those who want the dosing to be done for them, all without having to go to the pharmacy each month, Pill Pack’s got your back. 

When you sign up for this service, you transfer all of your medications over and set up a start date. From that point forward, your dosed out medications will start arriving at your doorstep every two weeks, packaged in little plastic baggies for each day of use. Another neat feature, PillPack will contact your doctor to confirm your medication schedule, as well as get your prescriptions renewed when they expire.

The only work you need to do, is open that little packet of pills each day and take ‘em. Pretty simple!

 

Why Consider Prescription Medication Reminders?

Did you know: A recent study provided insight into the importance of taking your prescriptions exactly as directed. 125,000 deaths, and nearly 25 percent of admissions to hospitals and nursing homes annually can be traced back to patients straying from their prescribed medication schedule. Medication reminders provide a service that can assist seniors, caregivers and loved ones in remembering to dose the proper medication at the right times of day.

In order to maintain good health, both mentally and physically, all medications need to be taken as prescribed by the prescribing doctor. Poor medication management can lead to:

  • Hospital admission, or readmission 
  • Quicker progression of disease or condition
  • Decrease in functional abilities
  • Higher potential of falling at home
  • More expensive healthcare costs

Taking your medications exactly when your body needs them is vital in order to stay healthy and functional for as long as possible. Seniors, and any individuals who tend to be forgetful when it comes to taking their prescription medications, should very seriously consider some form of medication reminder service. 

 

Medication Reminder Service Costs & Cost Savings

One accurate way to estimate what cost savings you may receive from using a medication management system, would be to contact assisted living communities and caregiving service providers regarding what they charge for these devices / services.

The average cost for medication management within an assisted living facility is between $300 to $500. Similarly, home care aide costs for medication management at one hour per day / five days a week using the lowest hourly rates available in the U.S., the fees are no less than $300 / month. 

Considering these facts, the use of a monthly medication management service (plus the cost of equipment / devices, if any are required), are generally cheaper than pill management services you’d pay for in senior living facilities. 

Plus, if you consider the statistics showing reduced hospital admission charges associated with improved medication adherence, the savings of using a medication reminder service are truly realized. 

 

Payment Options & Financial Assistance Available

Medicare

Unfortunately, Medicare does not pay for, or cover, electric pill reminder services by any type or name (medication management services, automatic pill dispensers, etc.).

Medicaid

Good News: Medicaid, through HCBS Waivers, does in fact cover the cost of medication management services in several U.S. states. 

Medicaid is open to covering the costs of any service which may reduce the overall need for other, more expensive funded services. Due to the fact that medication management services help prevent hospital readmission, Medicaid will cover the fees associated with said service. If your state’s medicaid coverage does not pay for the cost of medication management services, you can gain approval by showing proof of how such a service can, and likely will, save the state money in the long run. In some cases, medication management can be covered using a Personal Emergency Response Service and other times, a “Miscellaneous Home Medical Equipment”. 

Consumer direction in states’ Medicaid waivers offer another form of coverage for seniors. In a broad sense, consumer direction means that program participants are provided with the funding for care and related services, and given the flexibility to spend the budget they are granted as they best see fit to meet their medical needs. Additionally, nearly every state in the U.S. offer some degree of consumer direction in their Medicaid waivers. So, most Medicaid waiver program participants will receive some financial assistance for medication management services. If you’re looking for more information regarding Medicaid waivers can be found here.

There are programs available, such as Money Follows the Person, is another Medicaid option. Programs like this pay for a variety of services that help current Medicaid-funded nursing home residents to move back into their homes. Medication management services would likely be an approved expense to enable such a move.

Veteran’s Options

For senior veterans, there are two programs which cover the cost of medication management technology and services. They are as follows:

  1. Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS), allow beneficiaries to allocate financial assistance as they need to receive the care services as they best see fit. 
  2. Veterans Pensions allow beneficiaries to deduct any unreimbursed medical expenses from their incomes. Medication management services and devices fall under the “medical expenses” category, therefore, can be deducted from a veterans income. 

 

Tax Deductibility

The Medical Expense Credit allows tax filer’s to deduct the cost of their medication management service or device.