Bill Schlachter has a unique job but one that he feels provides a valuable service.
He advises people on their medications.
"I've done this for 31 years in nursing homes and assisted living homes, and I see how many meds they (patients) get placed on," said Schlachter, a board certified geriatric pharmacist and owner of BGS Consulting in Montoursville.
Schlachter said he sees elderly people prescribed for the wrong or too many medications.
Not infrequently, people actually are made to feel worse from the drugs that are supposed to help them.
And it's not uncommon for them to end up in emergency rooms for no other reason than they are taking the wrong medications or the improper dosages of drugs.
Licensed nursing homes are required to have in place a consultant pharmacist.
Schlachter can visit nursing homes but also assisted living facilities, senior centers, personal care homes and people's residences.
"I have the ability to do in-home consults," he said.
Very few consulting pharmacists work as independent contractors as does Schlachter.
Schlachter noted a number of instances when his intervention and consultation has helped someone.
An 80-year-old woman on Darvocet for arthritic pain also had been prescribed with Klonopin for anxiety. The problem was the anti-anxiety medication was making her drowsy.
Schlachter suggested she take Tylenol rather than Darvocet, taper her use of Klonopin and switch to Buspar for anxiety, which is non-sedating.
Schlachter often works with his wife, Tammy, a licensed practice nurse who has worked extensively in nursing homes.
"She does medication storage inspection and also helps counsel patients on how to take their medications appropriately," he said.
Schlachter performs a confidential personal review to assess an individual's drug therapy with respect to that person's diet, age, weight, medical conditions, allergies, blood pressure and heart rate.
Those with common health problems shouldn't necessarily be prescribed in the same manner, he noted.
Everyone reacts differently to specific medications, and each person has his or her own unique medical history and physical makeup.
And many people, especially the elderly, have different physicians considering their needs.
A primary doctor might be prescribe a patient a medication for a specific condition, while that same patient's orthopedic physician and hematologist might have them on medications for other reasons.
Adding to the confusion is the vast number of drugs being introduced all the time.
"A hundred new drugs a year are coming on the market," Schlachter said.
But perhaps the single biggest problem he sees is the exorbitant amount of money many people are paying for their medications.
By getting them on the proper drugs and off ones they don't need, costs for hospital admissions and medications can be reduced.
That can result in lower overall costs for Medicare and Medicaid often used to foot the bill for prescription costs for the elderly.
"It saves us taxpayers a lot of money in the end," he said.
Schlachter believes in many cases, "the less pills, the better."
Although, in some cases, medications can help as preventatives in the long run, he added.