Geriatric Pharmacy

by Tera Tuten on September 13, 2010

As a pharmacist, you will be inundated with offers to join a variety of professional organizations and to gather certifications. You may wonder why you should bother with any of them, and today we will discuss the importance of geriatric pharmacy certification specifically.

First, it is important to take a look at the numbers behind the geriatric population in the United States. According to the Administration on Aging almost 13% of the American population was over the age of 65 in 2009. It is estimated that, by 2030, this demographic will make up nearly 20% of the population, quite a substantial figure. Knowing that such a large percentage of the population will be in this demographic, makes it easy to see the importance of preparing oneself to better serve this aging population.

There are several factors which are unique to serving a geriatric customer base. The Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy, or CCGP, helps ensure that pharmacists are aware of the best practices to use in the service of geriatric patients and provide the newest research in the field. Whether or not you decide certification is appropriate for you, it is still a wise investment in time to learn more about serving geriatric patients in general.

According to a paper published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, there are several core competencies required for those who wish to focus on geriatric pharmacy which can be broken down into three categories, which are skills, knowledge, and attitudes. While it is certainly important that the values and attitudes are appropriate, one assumes that a person who had a desire to work with an elderly clientele would not have ageist views and would indeed be understanding, compassionate, and have a desire to improve and optimize care for these individuals.

In regards to knowledge, pharmacists will need to be taught:

  • Theories of aging
  • The difference between normal aging and changes caused by disease
  • Common geriatric conditions
  • Epidemiology of aging
  • Pharmacokinetic changes in aging
  • Pharmacodynamic changes in aging
  • Disorders and diseases that are more common in the elderly
  • Cultural, social, and economic issues of aging

Skills needed in geriatric pharmacy include:

  • The ability to conduct screening assessments
  • The ability to communicate effectively with elderly clients to obtain medical history and other information
  • The ability to prioritize the patient’s medical problems
  • The ability to adjust patient care plans as needed
  • The ability to communicate with health care providers about the drug therapy chosen for patients
  • The ability to manage chronic therapies alongside the prescriber
  • The ability to effectively educate an older patient on his drug therapy
  • The ability to manage health care environments and medication systems for older people
  • The ability to comply with local, state, and federal law that govern the regulations on the use of medication by the elderly

If you are interested in becoming a pharmacist, or are already a pharmacist with a special interest in helping the elderly, geriatric pharmacy may be a trend worth watching. Have you considered receiving additional training or certification for geriatric pharmacy? What has your experience been like?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane M. Yourie 05.28.12 at 2:52 pm

The elderly need very special care. I worked at the Hebrew Home and Hospital for 11 years and gained an appreciation of these wonderful people.
Now I take care of my 94yo mother in my home and its hands on care! No matter how one interacts with these patients there is a wealth of knowledge that is needed to give them good care, from monitoring their medication, to keeping a close eye on their nutritional intake; and I have learned that emotional and mental care may be the most important of all. They need to feel that they are still needed and need to be encouraged for all their accomplishments, such as being able to button a shirt without help, in order to maintain a healthy attitude. Without this, many of these wise people may just give up trying. I am a pharmacist, so I am very interested in their healthcare, but I’ve also found that I love to offer encouragement and humor so that their final years could be happy ones.

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