Supported Living

Independent Lady

January 29, 2013

When Matt Hoff was asked to choose a resident to participate in a new pharmacy pilot program, one person immediately came to mind: Laurie. As the Supervisor of the Boone County Family Resources Supported Living site where Laurie lives, Matt knew she would achieve a remarkable level of independence if this new system of dispensing medication worked for her.

“Laurie has a great grasp of her independence and really enjoys being able to do things that typical people would do on any given day,” he said.

One common activity most adults take for granted is opening a bottle of pills and dolling out their own medication. Might not sound like much, but for someone like  49-year-old Laurie, who has scoliosis and limited use of her left hand, opening bottles or even blister packs is impossible.

So despite the fact she can order, administer and document her medications, Laurie has depended on BCFR staff members to open the bottles and pack her meds each week into easy-to-open pill organizers.

That was no easy task.

Matt explained that because of the large number of meds Laurie takes each day, packing and documenting seven days’ worth of pills took staff members up to 1 ½ hours a week. The new Home Care program through Integrity Pharmacy eliminates that task by creating pill packets Laurie can open herself.

“There is a small percent of clients in supported living who self-administer their medication,” Matt said. “This is something many clients really see as a sign of true independence.”

Here’s how it works: The pharmacy packages a person’s prescriptions, certain over-the-counter medications and vitamins into presorted packets clearly marked with the date and time they should be taken. An entire 30-day supply is delivered to the person’s home in a dispensing box that works like a roll of paper towels. You simply pull the prepackaged packets from the cardboard dispenser and tear off the ones you need for the day.

For Laurie, the daily string of packets is rather long but still manageable. She simply tears off the packet she needs, fits it into an adapted scissor, presses down and ta-da! The packet is open, and she can take her pills with no assistance.

At first, Laurie was leery; worried she might fumble with the scissor and cut herself. But that soon passed.

“It’s easy,” she said. “And I like the idea that I was picked to be the first person to try it.”

Laurie, who has her own apartment and works five days a week, has been using the Home Care program since November. So far, it has delivered as promised. Matt said it also has liberated his staff from hours of tedious work that Laurie understood how to do but couldn’t carry out because of her physical limitations.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “This could help so many other clients in supported living who self-administer” their medication.

Laurie is proud to be a pioneer in a program that could eventually help hundreds of people like her become more self-sufficient. 

“Now, I just wish Claritin could be packaged this way!” she said.