McAuley Ministries Funding Will Help DU Pharmacy Better Target Elderly

Duquesne University Times

Recent funding from McAuley Ministries, the grant-making foundation of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, will help the Duquesne University Pharmacy in the Hill District better focus on the senior population through its community-based health screenings.

The $46,300 McAuley Ministries renewal grant will support efforts to target the elderly population who will benefit from the pharmacy's disease/medication therapy management and patient safety programs.

Terri Kroh, director of the Duquesne University Pharmacy who is managing the grant, said that information gathered through initial outreach activities from a previous McAuley Ministries grant in 2012 helped to determine additional community needs and identify emerging health care issues. Of the 3,610 individuals the pharmacy screened in that time, nearly 2,960 were identified as being at-risk.

"Sixty three percent of the individuals we screened are age 50 and above," said Kroh, explaining the reason for the increased focus on the elderly. "It is well known that the burden of having multiple chronic conditions falls on our senior citizens, with approximately two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries dealing with six or more chronic conditions. These individuals are also at high-risk for medication-related problems resulting from complex regimens."

Kroh explained that increasing medication use with age is common to address specific symptoms, improve or extend quantity of life or to heal curable conditions. "Nearly 20 percent of community-dwelling elders aged 65 years or older take 10 or more medications," she said. "For some, underlying conditions require multiple drugs from different classes, but for others this polypharmacy (the use of four or more medications by a patient) is unnecessary and unfortunate."

Multiple medication use can create adherence challenges in the aging population. Kroh said that approximately one-half of elders who take at least one medication find adherence difficult. "They may follow dosage instructions for some of their medications but not for others," said Kroh. "Average adherence decreases from approximately 80 percent in patients taking medication once daily to just 50 percent in those taking medications four times a day."

The pharmacy's follow-up plans with individuals identified as at risk or as having chronic disease progression will include targeted telephone outreach to monitor the outcome of their screening referral and to encourage participation in the pharmacy's disease management program.

"We are very grateful for this grant renewal from McAuley Ministries," said Kroh. "Our senior wellness and disease management program will be improved with fall prevention assessment; therapeutic duplication and high-risk drugs screenings; and continued health screenings to improve access and affordability to preventative health care in the community we are proud to serve."

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