Most seniors have at least one, if not many more, prescription medications that they take daily. Depending on how medications are taken, they can be crucial for health when the guidelines are followed, or they can cause a major health setback if taken improperly. Whether it’s taking too many doses mistakenly, or forgetting the schedule and skipping medication at the appointed time, the results can be deadly.
Among seniors, medication nonadherence is widespread. According to research done by the Department of Health and Human Services, at least fifty-five percent of the eldery in the United States are non-compliant with the instructions of their prescription drugs, meaning they are taking the medications out of accordance with the doctor’s instructions. Following this statistic is the revelation that each year, approximately 200,000 older adults are hospitalized due to adverse drug reactions, a consequence of taking medications not as intended.
For senior citizens, there are many reasons why they fail to take their medications in the manner they are prescribed. Here are some common causes of medication mistakes, and what can be done to prevent them. For elders with vision problems, one issue with medication is being unable to read small print on the pill bottles, or distinguish between the various multiple pill bottles, which can lead to a potentially dangerous medication misuse or interaction. Try asking your loved one’s pharmacist about accessible medication labels. Many pharmacies can apply large print labels, or even labels in braille, to the pill bottles. Another option is the use of a talking medication system, consisting of a scanner that reads microchips in the bottle labels and speaks the information out loud
Many senior citizens suffer from some form of cognitive disability, whether from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. And even if the disease is still in early stages, and lapses in memory can be a disaster where medication is concerned. Depending on the disease progression, a pill box can be a simple and effective solution when still early in symptoms. An organizer that sorts pills by time and part of day can, at a glance, let someone know if they’ve taken their medications. Simply refill it each week and it becomes very unlikely for a senior to mistakenly take too much or too little medication. For seniors in more advanced stages of the disease, sadly the only real effective solution is for someone to be present at their designated medication times to make sure they’re taking them as instructed.
Many elderly people live on fixed incomes after retiring. What this unfortunately means for many of them is being unable to afford all the medications they’ve been prescribed. Seniors with low income may resort to splitting pills, taking less than prescribed, or going without medications entirely. For seniors on a budget, the first solution is to seek generic drugs whenever possible. These feature the same ingredients, but are usually much less expensive. Another option is researching potential discount or assistance programs your pharmacy or the drug manufacturer may offer.