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Pilot program helps Chilliwack seniors track meds

Lloyd Sandhoff may forget a thought mid-sentence, but he never forgets his pills.

Three times a day, for a total of 24 pills to help alleviate the stresses of high blood pressure, heart congestion, circulatory issues, arthritis, and other age-related ailments, the 90-year-old pops them like clockwork.

It wasn't always that way.

The Chilliwack senior used to have "mounds" of forgotten pills piled on tables throughout his small room at Crystal Ridge Manor.

Admittedly, he was a medical emergency waiting to happen.

When Fraser Health approached him to be part of the automated medical dispensing unit pilot, it was as though God had spoken.

"With this, I don't forget because it tells me to take my pills," he said. "It's a godsend; you don't see any pills lying around here anymore."

The pilot program was started in Chilliwack in 2012 in recognition of the need for the aging community. It's a first for the province.

With it, seniors are given a Phillips pill dispensing unit that is programmed to verbally tell them when to take their pills, and then, upon further prompting, dispense the proper dose in a small plastic container.

If the alert is ignored, it will continue to alert clients every minute for 45 minutes, at which time a message will be sent to a call centre in Ontario, which will then alert the client's first responder, whether that be a family member or home health nurse.

The purpose of the unit is three-fold: to keep the senior population independent for as long as possible; to minimize pill-dosing errors; and to reduce costs on the medical system.

"It's been quite a wonderful piece of machinery for us," said Chilliwack Home Health representative Chris Laslop.

"In the past, we had to send home support workers into the home to dispense medications several times a day, which is quite costly on the medical system."

Now, with the unit, either a family member or home health nurse is able to reload the machine either weekly or bi-weekly.

From June 2012 to September 2013, the program produced an approximate savings of over $200,000 on the medical system, and over 6,000 home support hours.

Fraser Health has not yet tested whether it's reduced emergency room visits or hospitalizations, "but I"m sure that's something that would be affected also," said Laslop.

In total, 31 Chilliwack seniors have been connected with the unit, with 25 currently using it.

Fraser Health is looking at rolling the program out to other communities in the province.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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