Overview of California Regulations and Assisted Living Medication Management

Odds are that an older individual considering moving into an assisted living community is taking at least one if not more medications. If you are the adult child of an older parent thinking about moving to an assisted living community, or if you are a senior adult yourself contemplating a transition to assisted living, you understandably may want information about medication management in this type of long-term care facility. In this article, we discuss some of the basic elements of medication management in a California assisted living facility. The topics related to California regulations and assisted living medication management we discuss in this article are:

  • Who administers medications in an assisted living community?
  • How is medication stored in an assisted living community?
  • Reports to state of California regarding medications administered in assisted living
  • Reports to resident’s physician about medication issues
  • Reordering prescriptions in an assisted living community
  • Monitoring residents on medication in assisted living

Who Administers Medications in an Assisted Living Community?

California regulations dictate the manner in which medications are administered in an assisted living community. These regulations mandate that a resident generally must be able to self-administer medication. This includes oral medication as well injections of the type associated with such conditions as diabetes.

An appropriately trained assisted living staff member can provide some assistance to an assisted living resident in regard to his or her medication. The most important staff assistance is in providing a resident with medicine doses at appropriate times throughout the day. For example, an assisted living care staff member can provide medicine to a resident for self-administration at times set forth in a prescription. 

How Is Medication Stored in an Assisted Living Community?

The overarching California regulation is that an assisted living resident’s medications should be stored in a locked med room or med cabinet in a facility. The med storage space should be inaccessible to residents. Only duly designated assisted living staff should be able to access a med room or med cabinet.

In some cases, California regulation can allow a resident to keep certain type of medications in his or her personal living space. Prior approval of the resident’s physician must be obtained before this type of arrangement can be allowed. If this type of arrangement is permitted, the resident is obliged to keep the medication under lock and key so that no other resident in the facility can access stored drugs.

Even though some medications theoretically can be stored in this manner, as a general rule this is not an advisable course. An assisted living community is not required to allow a resident to store medications in this manner. Professionals in the field of healthcare for residents of assisted living communities usually recommend against allowing for this type of medication storage. 

Reports to State of California Regarding Medications Administered in Assisted Living

Medication administration errors or mistakes need to be reported to the California Department of Social Services on a form provided to assisted living facilities for these types of issues. The agency spells out in relevant regulations precisely when these types of reports need to be made to the agency. The failure to follow reporting protocols established by the state of California can result in an assisted living community facing administrative action against the facility by the Department of Social Services.

Report to Resident’s Physician About Medication Issues

Medication issues involving a resident of an assisted living community need to be reported to that individual’s primary care physician or other appropriate healthcare provider. Examples of medication issues that should be reported to a resident’s physician include:

  • Dosage errors
  • Adverse reactions
  • Patient refusal to take medication
  • Prescription discrepancy

Reordering Prescriptions in an Assisted Living Community

An assisted living community needs to designate an appropriately trained staff member to reorder prescriptions as necessary. In addition, if a prescription has no reorders available or otherwise is about to expire, the staff member needs to contact the prescribing physician to make arrangements for a renewal of the prescription or to schedule an appointment for the resident in question to have a medicine evaluation with that doctor.

A resident is able to directly deal with prescription reordering and related matters. With that said, if a resident does assume this responsibility, assisted living staff needs to confirm that these tasks are accomplished in a timely manner.

Monitoring Residents on Medication in Assisted Living

Finally, California medication management regulations require assisted living staff to monitor residents and their use of medications. This includes monitoring a resident when he or she receives a new medication, experiences a change in medication dosage, or is taken off of a medication. 

In addition, even if there have been no milestone medication adjustments with a resident, assisted living staff need to generally monitor a resident’s ongoing response to medications he or she takes. This includes residents who have been taking a particular medication for an extended period of time. 

The state of California takes assisted living medication management very seriously. Deviations from the regulations in place in regard to medication management can have significant consequences.