With the mission to help aging adults maintain their independence, North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) targets its programs and services on the key reasons older adults lose their independence. Medication-related problems and errors endanger the lives and well-being of a high percentage of adults over age 65 – putting them at increased risk of falls, dizziness, confusion and other side effects.
NCBAM regional directors, Debra Kuykendall, center, and Yvetta Smith, right, worked with High Country Aging Service Coordinator, Nicole Hiegl, to develop a HomeMeds pilot program in eastern North Carolina.
To reduce these risks, NCBAM partnered with HomeMeds – an evidence-based national program that addresses medication safety as well as quality of life issues. The HomeMeds partnership began in January as NCBAM’s regional directors, Yvetta Smith (east area) and Debra Kuykendall (central west area), formed a pilot program in eastern North Carolina. The HomeMeds program was started with funds donated by Rocky Hock Baptist Church in Edenton.
Rocky Hock generously donated the proceeds of its 2016 fishing tournament to NCBAM.
Seventeen volunteers from eight churches were certified in the HomeMeds program at the January training held at Rocky Hock. Another of NCBAM’s partners, Nicole Hiegl, aging service coordinator for the High Country Area Agency on Aging, trained the volunteers to implement the program.
HomeMeds volunteers visit the homes of aging adults at risk – documenting medications and recording blood pressure and pulse. A computerized assessment is created and then reviewed by a licensed pharmacist who makes any recommendations for improvement. Primary care physicians are alerted if the pharmacist notes any immediate medication interactions. There is no charge for participating in the program and confidentiality is guaranteed. Volunteers make return visits to participants to deliver lists of their medications along with letters to share with their physicians.
While in the home, volunteers are trained to offer additional benefits from NCBAM’s Priority #1: Prevention program. Each participant receives an NCBAM Red Bag for storing all medications in one place. An NCBAM home safety assessment can also be performed which includes checking for working smoke alarms, sufficient lighting and grab bars. Participants are also informed about SHIIP (Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program) – a service of North Carolina’s Department of Insurance that helps Medicare recipients choose the most cost-effective prescription drug plan.
While NCBAM’s HomeMeds pilot program ended in May, it will be evaluated for effectiveness and sustainability. Sandy Gregory, NCBAM’s director, would like to introduce HomeMeds across the state. “Medication errors are a very serious, but preventable, problem among aging adults,” Gregory said. “With help from North Carolina Baptists, we hope to make a big difference across the state as we use this evidence-based tool to help aging adults safely remain in their own homes and enjoy improved quality of life.”