Meet Jenna Weber, Certified Geriatric Pharmacist, Morton LTC

 Assisted living and skilled nursing homes rely on daily or twice-daily deliveries of prescriptions for their residents. The medications arrive pre-portioned from a long-term care pharmacy (generally, a pharmacy that does not have a storefront, but specializes only in pharmacy for assisted living and nursing home residents). The medications are prescribed by residents’ doctors and are distributed, or “passed” by specially trained caregiving staff. One of the most important health care responsibilities of long term care facilities is consistent, safe, and accurate medication distribution.

Valley VNA Senior Care contracts with Morton LTC of Neenah for its resident prescriptions. We are very fortunate to have on our Morton LTC team a board certified geriatric pharmacist, Jenna Weber, PharmD, BCGP. As a specialist in pharmacy for seniors, Jenna is one of only 47 board certified geriatric pharmacists in Wisconsin, a certification that requires rigorous preparation and study beyond traditional pharmacy school.

Meet Jenna and learn why it is valuable to have a board certified geriatric pharmacist consult at your loved one’s assisted living home:

My job is to help seniors live happier, healthier lives by assisting them to take their medications safely and appropriately. As we age, our bodies and brains change and our medications should change accordingly. I carefully monitor which medications are used and at what dose to ensure adjustments are made to accommodate aging residents. I review medications to see if there are any medicines a resident is taking that he or she no longer needs or needs in a lower dose.

A current national issue centers on the proper use of antibiotics, a term called antibiotic stewardship. It is important to reserve antibiotics for use only when a patient is truly ill from a confirmed infection resulting from bacterial overgrowth (not viral infections). Unnecessary use of antibiotics can result in especially negative side effects for an elderly person. Also, when antibiotics are overused or prescribed incorrectly, bacteria can develop a resistance to them and these medicines may not be effective against infections in the future.

I also review and coordinate prescriptions from multiple prescribers for the same patient to prevent drug interactions and avoid using medications that duplicate one another. Because a resident consolidates all of his or her medications to Morton LTC when he or she moves into Valley VNA, our pharmacists perform a detailed medication review at the beginning of our service and as medications or resident health conditions change. If we find a potential problem, we contact his or her health care provider to ask questions or make suggestions.

As a geriatric health care provider, I consider the natural aging process and how these changes affect seniors’ bodies, including their absorption and response to medications. I review each person’s medical diagnoses, including how well their body removes drugs from their system (for example, their kidney function), and how they respond to the medications they are currently taking. After reviewing this information, I make recommendations for any necessary prescription changes to Valley VNA staff and the patient’s provider.

Fall prevention is a very important part of my consulting work. Whereas a younger person may stand up too quickly, feel a bit dizzy, and swiftly recover, an older person who falls can experience life changing injuries. I oversee prescription dosages and potential drug interactions to help prevent lightheadedness, dizziness, or confusion that could lead to falls. If a resident is taking medications that potentially increase his or her fall risk, we alert Valley VNA staff and the resident’s doctor to discuss safer alternatives.

The cost of prescriptions has long been a concern for residents and families. Part of my role is to recommend generic drugs to replace a more expensive brand name medication when possible. Most pharmacies will do automatic generic substitution unless the provider indicates a brand name drug is required.

Our pharmacists consult with assisted living community staff members on a regular basis. We help educate facility staff and patients about a variety of medication-related topics. We work with caregiving teams to ensure best practices in medication handling, compliance with long-term care laws, and preparation for audits by their regulating bodies. A Morton LTC pharmacist is on call 24/7 if emergencies arise concerning resident prescriptions.

Dementia care and hospice care are two specialized areas of pharmacy practice that are an ideal fit for a board certified geriatric pharmacist. We are trained to follow a resident’s cognitive changes and adjust his or her medicines to attempt to slow the progression of dementia, keep the resident as healthy as possible, and allow him or her to engage with others to find joy and fulfillment. It’s a delicate balancing act because change is constant, whether it is cognitive loss or terminal illness. I find this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my job because I am able to improve a patient’s quality of life and help ease the worries family members and loved ones.