What Exactly Is Self-Administration of Medication in Assisted Living?

In the context of an assisted living facility, self-administration of medication means the act of a resident placing a medication in or on his or her own body. As will be discussed further in this article, self-administration in assisted living can also but does not need to mean the resident identifies the medication and the time and manner of administration. These latter two tasks can be undertaken by an appropriately trained assisted living community staff member.

In regard to the matter of what exactly is the self-administration of medication in assisted living, we address these topics:

  • Need for written consent by a resident of assistance with medication administration
  • Medication management and ensuring medicine doses at the proper times
  • Medication management and med storage
  • Delivering med container to resident
  • Preparing medication dose as necessary
  • Supportive assistance when resident self-administers medication
  • A written record of assistance with self-administration

Written Consent by Resident to Staff Assistance With Medication Administration

The best practice regarding staff assistance with med administration (assisting a resident with taking a medication) is to have a resident’s written approval for this type of help. What exactly is permissible in regard to help with med taking by a resident is discussed in more detail later in this article. What assistance is not is placing medication in a resident’s mouth, applying medication to a resident’s skin, or actually injecting insulin into a resident. 

Medication Management and Ensuring Medicine Doses at Proper Times

A key element of assisted living medication management is ensuring that residents receive and take their medications at prescribed times. Indeed, issues with taking medicines at proper times are primary reasons why many older individuals move into assisted living. 

A common practice is for staff to bring medications to residents at a prescribed time. Whatever the protocol utilized, it must be designed and implemented to ensure the timely provision of medications to residents in the manner in which they have been prescribed (or recommended by a physician if the med is an over-the-counter type of product).

Medication Management and Med Storage

When it comes to the self-administration of medicine by an assisted living resident, med storage is a matter to be addressed. Some assisted living facilities permit a resident to maintain medications in his or her living quarters. Nevertheless, the meds are under lock and key.

Assisted living facilities need to maintain a properly secured med room or med cabinet (depending on the size of the community). Only duly designated staff members can access a med room or med cabinet.

Delivering Med Container to Resident 

As part of the self-administration of the medication process, the actual medicine bottle or container should be brought to the resident when it is time for a dose. This practice reduces the risk of medication errors. Moreover, many residents are more than capable of removing a dose from a container as part of the self-administration process, and they should certainly do so when able. 

Preparing Medicine Dose as Necessary

In accordance with laws, rules, and regulations associated with a medically unlicensed person assisting in the administration of meds, a staff member can assist by preparing a dose or a drug. The ideal process for accomplishing this task is as follows:

  • In the presence of the residence, a staff member presents the container containing the medication
  • Staff member reviews the label to confirm the proper dosage and timing of that dose
  • Staff member opens the container
  • The staff member removes the proper dose of the medication from the container and delivers it to resident
  • Staff member closes the container

Supportive Assistance When Resident Self-Administers Medication

Supportive assistance when a resident self-administers medication is limited. A staff member cannot put medication into a resident’s mouth nor apply it to a resident’s skin. A staff member can steady a resident’s arm or hand as he or she raises the medicine to his or her mouth to take the drug.

Written Record of Assistance With Self-Administration

Each and every time a staff member assists a resident with the self-administration of medication, a written record of what occurred needs to be made. This written record need not be complicated. It merely needs to recount that a staff member assisted a resident with the self-administration of a particular medication or medications and indicate the nature of that assistance (for example, steadied a resident’s hand as she placed the medication into her own mouth).

In closing, over 50 percent of residents in a typical assisted living community require medication management. A notable number of these senior women and men do require at least some limited assistance with medication self-administration. The need to limit the extent to which a staff member assists in this aspect of medication management is crucial. If a resident reaches a point in time at which he or she cannot self-administer, one of two options exists:

  • First, a healthcare aide can be privately retained by a resident to assist with the actual administration of medication.
  • Second, ongoing placement in an assisted living facility will not be possible without the type of privately retained assistance mentioned. A transition to another type of living environment will need to occur.