Carers of dementia patients reveal burden of managing medicines
Family carers of people with dementia have difficulty managing their medication and lack the knowledge to weigh up risks and benefits of different drugs, finds research.
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Family carers of people with dementia have difficulty managing their medication and lack the knowledge to weigh up the risks and benefits of different drugs, according to research published in BMC Research Notes on 28 July 2014.
The carers feel overburdened with the responsibility of administering medicines and think health professionals fail to understand the problems around managing medicines when caring for someone with dementia, the study led by pharmacy academics at Aston University reveals.
“I was surprised by the results,” says Ian Maidment, lead researcher for the study and senior lecturer in clinical pharmacy at Aston, “I think it is [an issue that is] hidden from healthcare professionals such as pharmacists and GPs. People need to be made aware of the problem and we need to do more research.”
The findings are based on data gathered as part of a workshop, which included carers and ex-carers of people with dementia from the Alzheimer’s Society Research Network, a community pharmacist, a mental health pharmacist, a GP, the head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society and a patient/public involvement officer, whose role is to engage with patients and involve them in research.
The carers reported “a sense of despair” when explaining the problems they faced administering medicines to health and social care professionals who failed to offer them any support, the research reveals.
Practical problems were often associated with drugs not linked to dementia. For example, the laxative Fybogel can set too quickly in a glass to be taken by a person with dementia.
Carers said they found compliance aids designed to support medicines use helpful, but there was a “general lack of awareness” about the additional support and advice they could receive from their community pharmacist, the study shows.
“The focus group discussion made clear that managing medication in dementia is neither trivial nor emotionally neutral for carers and patients,” the researchers say. “The discussions highlighted the need to understand why healthcare professionals might not spend time listening to patients and carers so as to address their medication-related difficulties and concerns.”
“What this research really highlights is the importance of involving people affected by dementia in order to ensure that studies focus on areas which are most relevant to them,” says Clare Walton, research communications manager at the Alzheimer’s Society.
On the back of the study, Maidment is planning new research into whether community pharmacists have a particular role in assisting carers and dementia patients with medicines management and the best ways of providing that support.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066024
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