We all know how important it is to follow a doctor’s orders. Yet medication nonadherence is a huge problem among older adults.

What is Medication Adherence?

Medication adherence refers to patients taking their medication as prescribed to them. That means at the right time, in the right doses, without skipping or sharing with others. Medication nonadherence also includes failing to fill a prescription or stopping the course of the therapy before the prescribed time.

Why do Seniors Not Take Medication as Prescribed?

Seniors are more likely to be managing multiple health conditions, requiring multiple prescriptions. This makes it easy to forget to take a dose or become confused. Other factors include:

  • Mental state including depression or anxiety
  • Knowledge and beliefs about medication
  • Physical health
  • Living alone or lack of interpersonal relationships
  • Misunderstanding of verbal instructions
  • Poor communication from a healthcare provider

There are many factors that cause nonadherence. This study provides a thorough explanation.

What are the Dangers of Nonadherence?

According to the American Society on Aging, “medication non-adherence accounts for more than 10% of senior hospital admissions, nearly a quarter of nursing home admissions, and 20% of preventable adverse drug events among older persons in outpatient settings.” Non-adherence can reduce the therapeutic benefits of a drug. This can cause more frequent hospitalization, a decrease in the senior’s health condition, and more treatment than is necessary.

How Can We Encourage Medication Adherence?

From the World Health Organization:

  • Assess patient’s mental status and ability to take medication properly
  • Assess their attitude. Are they willing to take medication?
  • Make sure packaging is user friendly
  • Ensure the health care team knows what challenges the senior is facing at home
  • Does the patient need a caregiver?

Seniors need caring people in their lives to ensure they get their medication at the right time, in the right dose. Together, you can overcome medication nonadherence.