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When a resident runs out of a med

January 17, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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After living almost 15 years in nursing homes, I am still surprised when I run out of a certain medicine. I have run out of medicines too many times to count and I was never able to find out exactly why that happens. Medicines could be late because of billing or payment issues from the residents' insurance—I was not told this but it seems logical. I thought that possibly a nurse or nurses forgot to pull the sticker and the medicine was not reordered. But many times I saw the nurse remove the sticker wand and the drug still did not come in.

Over the years I also heard when other residents were out of medicines. A resident friend told me quite calmly that she had been out of a pain medicine for more than five days. I do not think I could have been so calm.

When I ran out of the medicine, I wanted to know when it was ordered. But I could not find out. Instead the nurse would call the pharmacy and have my medication drop shipped. It usually arrived a few hours later. Other times no special ordering was done and I went as long as 48 hours without a medicine that I was scheduled to take every day.

At one facility, I heard some nurses complain that other nurses did not pull the reorder stickers. It seemed that one nurse ended up doing most of the reordering, and that was quite noticeable when she went on vacation.

Reordering drugs was made more complicated because some nurses worked eight-hour shifts five days a week, and others worked twelve-hour shifts three days a week. The five days-a-week nurses were better able to keep track of the medicines and the ordering process.

It may be easier if two or three facility nurses could follow up on reordered medicines. That would make it easier to keep track of them, so residents would not hear from the nurses “I do not know” as often.

For a time, I tried very hard to make sure that I did not run out of medicines. I asked when particular meds were ordered. Some nurses did not mind my asking, but others definitely did, so I eventually stopped.

Over the years I discovered that if a certain med was always late, it could be because it was being discontinued. That happened to me slowly over several months a couple of times. I thought that my doctor could have recommended another drug or discontinued the medicine that was always arriving late. I have even asked nurses to have my doctor increase my dose of a particular medication so the pharmacy would send more at a time. But the nurses told me he would not do that.

When my previous facility doctor told me how terrible the pharmacy was, I suggested that he could try to do something about it. He told me I just did not understand how pharmacies work.

I do not think we residents should go more than 24 hours without our scheduled medications. Waiting longer causes us anxiety, stress, and makes us feel helpless.

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Comments

I really enjoy reading your blog posts. I have to wonder why the staff gives you some of the answers that they do. I'm sure you can see right thru most of the lies that they feed you. Sometimes they are not lies, but misinformation. Keep writing what you do and maybe someone will finally get the fact that residents of LTC deserve more respect.
I'd love to hear/ see you write about the staffing issues too!

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...