Who's qualified for dispensing medication to assisted living patients?

9 answers | Last updated: Jan 26, 2016
Dino asked...

Who's qualified for dispensing medication to assisted living patients? My mother is in an assisted living facility. There is a student nurse in charge over the weekend. Nurses' aides and healthcare technicians who have only completed one four-to-eight hour course are allowed to pass out medications. This concerns me -- are they properly qualified?


Expert Answers

Nan Hayes is founder of MoveSeniors.com, the national resource network of Certified Relocation and Transition Specialists for seniors, and President of RightSized Living, a senior home transition service in Illinois.

 CNA 's should not give any medications to the patient , yet, if certified they can assist the patient in self administering the medication. Even when certified, the medication should be  pre-measured  and given to them by a nurse or doctor. This sounds like the situation you have described and is OK.

Medical Assistants, who have more educaiotn than the CNA,  can give shots under supervision of an on-duty doctor. An IV may only be administered by a nurse or a doctor.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

In my opinion, CNAs should not even be touching medications. But that's healthcare in America; They are phasing out LPNs and using CNAs to function as nurses if they get "certified". They can now provide cheaper hired help. That means even high school drop outs can now become nurses. All I can say if you have a loved one in a nursing home, God help them. https://www.ncsbn.org/1725.htm

A fellow caregiver answered...

imo too, CNA's should not be touching the medicine. Theft of narcotics by CNA's....CNA's have very little invested into thier careers, maybe that's why. i have an abusive drug addict neighbor CNA that works at a nursing home, and have known others like that. Pretty good at keeping thier job=narcotics.

Chadm answered...

Assisted Living (AL) residents are considered medically stable. In an AL this is their home and they are assisted with the activities of daily living. Caregivers or CNA's with the proper training to become Medication Aids can safely and effectively give medications or oversee that the proper medication is administered. These Medication Aids's are still under the license of an RN, which is in their best interest to make sure all medications are passed correctly by their Medication Aids if they wish to keep their license. Many seniors eyesight is an issue and/or remembering which medications they took can be difficult even if their pills are put into an AM/PM pill counter.

Note this, just because someone has gotten their CNA certification does not mean that they have the mental capability to pass medications. We put our Medication Aids through rigorous training and they have regular audits they must pass to continue in their roll.

Further complicating the issue, nursing schools have begun to phase out LVN/LPN programs forcing retirement communities to find new methods to safely pass the medications, thus training CNA's to pass medications.

Please note that if the resident is unstable medically than living in an AL may not be the best setting for them.

When it comes to Skilled Nursing or Hospital settings where patients are consistently unstable, I agree, medications should be passed by a trained professional i.e. RN.

Agentsalt answered...

Anyone is allowed to pass medicine as long as they are certified. Case closed

Frustrated-daughter answered...

My mother is in a memory care unit in an assisted living facility (ALF). She has advanced dementia but is physically healthy. She does take BP & dementia meds on a daily basis, as well as vitamins. When her dementia wasn't as advanced, I would handle the ordering/purchasing & aliquoting of the meds into weekly pill boxes. Either my sister or I would call and remind Mom to take her meds. But as her dementia advanced, that no longer worked.

She was put on their meds management program. They get the meds through a pharmacy that pre-packages all her meds on a single blister card, since she only take them once/day. They are stored in a locked box. All that is required is for someone to remove one card, pop out each pill and hand it to my mother. Frankly, a child could do it. I have witnessed this on several occasions, with different aides, and the most time it has taken is 5 min. For this they charge $500/mos!! Using a figure of 5 min/day, that comes out to ~$200/hr!!!! That is just plain ludicrous! However, since I don't know anyone who lives close enough to do it, we are stuck paying that!!!

Angry in michigan!!! answered...

I have turned the care facility where my parents live into the State of Michigan twice for medication errors done by "Aides" that took an 8 hour class. At one point an ambulance had to be called because my Dad was so over medicated he was unresponsive and breathing poorly. Hospital said he was toxic. All that for $7500 a month!!!! My parents deserve a qualified nurse to be giving them their meds instead of Aides killing them.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Being a RN for many years, I have witnessed my Profession take a drastic and horriffic downward spiral. First, the term "nurse" is used entirely too loose. A " Nurse " is a Registered Nurse . A Registered Nurse is the ONLY Nurse who has " Legal " authority to give ALL medications, hence , why We are REGISTERED !!! LPT/ LVN/ LPN are also nurses but the Scope of Practice is less than that of an RN. LVN can NEVER give IV medications EVER ! They can stop and hang a bag on a IV pump but never push start . They cannot do Central Lines. LPT / LVN/ LPN can give oral and IM medications. Now they are letting MA give Immunizations / blood draws (without phlebotomy certs.) / and some IM meds.. (SCARY ) CNA give oral meds.( SCARY) . I do Not and will not work at these facilities and jepordize patients lives and my License that I went to school for 7 years !!! Some RN dont even know what classification is an Ativan . " Its a benzo dear, anti-anxiety. No its NOT a pain pill " If a Nurse cant tell you what a pill is for, then DONT TAKE IT !! That is a Nurses job ! Not the MA or CNA. As long as the community bow to corporatiins risking our / your Loved Ones they will continue to downsize and competent patient care. As long as Foreign taught nurses (an doctors) are allowed to " practice " medicine and nursing care on US citizens there will be , and is, substandard medical care. Dont ever leave a loved one in the hospital by themselves. Also have a RN ( USA taught) at their bedside with at least 5 years experience.. Hire an outside RN to question the Dr. Orders and to keep family informed.

A fellow caregiver answered...

How is it "SCARY" that an MA gives patient's oral meds & IM meds? I went to school for a total of 5 years experience. An AAS in Medical Assisting & a certification. So I am a CMA, I took phlebotomy as an elective so I have that skill as well. When I worked at the hospital I found out that several of the RN's I worked under only had an AAS degree & not a 4 year degree..had I have known I could have been a nurse with the 2 years of schooling I wouldn't have wasted my time in the MA program but it was hard & I succeeded & I can pass medication, not so scary.