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Elderly Test Pill Dispensers

Sixteen elderly Norwegians in the town of Bærum have been testing an automatic drug dispenser in their homes to determine if the device can take over the job from home health aides.

 Users who tested the drug dispensers ranged in age from 68 to 96 and exhibited a variety of disabilities such as paralysis, reduced motor function and visual and cognitive impairments, according to an article.

 On the positive side, some people reported increased feelings of empowerment while using the device and researchers reported time savings for home care services and fewer medication errors. “Users with a stable psyche and only moderate cognitive impairment report a greater feeling of freedom when medication visits are stopped,” says researcher Ingrid Svagård.

 But other users said the home care workers’ visits gave them a sense of security and they felt uneasy when they stopped.

 Bærum municipality officials decided to test the device because home care services’ workers often struggle to complete all their scheduled home medication visits and they wanted to reduce incidences of patients failing to take medication or taking it at the wrong time.

The town purchased 10 Pilly dispensers in 2013, which hold pills in a “carousel” syststem with 28 chambers. A sound or light signal alerts patients when it is time to take medication. If the pills are not taken at the scheduled time an SMS is sent to a pre-defined telephone number.

 Many users, though, reported that the signals were stressful and instead of listening for the signals, they closely monitored the time.

According to Svagård, reaping the benefits of home drug dispensers depends on a number of different factors.

“Experience tells us that obtaining an overall knowledge of the users is essential,” she says. “If a user is to obtain any benefit from the Pilly dispenser, he or she must be aware of, and understand, exactly how it works. It is also important that the dispenser is individually adapted to the person using it. For example, some users will need more time than others to take their medicine.”

Source: Gemini, SINTEF