A Hard Pill to Swallow? Helping Your Older Patients Take Their Medication

senior and carer

Older people, especially those 65 years old and above, are prone to multiple health problems that require constant healthcare interventions. Doctors prescribe older adults to follow a prescribed regimen that involves taking various medications in a day.

Although medication is designed to successfully treat a condition and improve the quality of life, many older adults struggle to take them. According to an article on a 2017 issue of Drugs & Aging, non-adherence to medication occurs in half of older adults in the US.

Failure to follow a medication regimen could lead to treatment failure, severe reactions, or even death. So, whether you’re a physician for a patient with cancer or a caregiver taking care of a dementia patient at home, here’s how to guide them to take their medication:

Set expectations

Take the time to explain to the patient what to expect when they take medicine. When an older adult starts a medication regimen, they can experience these scenarios and end up stopping medication:

  • If they start feeling better, they might think they don’t need to take the drug anymore.
  • If they feel worse, they might stop the medication to avoid side effects.
  • If the patient doesn’t feel any change, they might think the medicine isn’t working.

Spend a few minutes with the patient, their family, and the caregiver to explain how the medicine works and why it’s essential to take it consistently. Doing so will make them more adherent to the regimen.

Develop a relationship with the patient

Take a few minutes and form a relationship with the patient. Ask how they’re feeling or if they’re feeling side effects from the medication. These questions can help the patient open up about concerns that might cause them not to take their medicine.

Find the best way to remind patients to take medication

taking medication

Older adults may not be taking their medicine because they forget how many pills they have to take in a day. Other times, they might have a hard time opening the medicine packaging.

A variety of medication tools can help your older patient take their medicine more consistently. These are:

Pill Organizers

This container has several compartments organized and color-coded by the days of the week. Each compartment can store several pills. This is an ideal solution for older patients to remember what medication they should take for a specific day.

Smartphone Apps

A variety of smartphone apps track how elderly patients manage their medication. It can also remind a patient when it’s time for a refill. This is recommended for patients who are willing to embrace apps or have family or caregivers that can help them manage medication.

Behavior Changes

Incorporating medication into a patient’s daily routine can go a long way in making them adhere to the regimen. You can recommend making pills part of their morning or bedtime routine. Medication might be more natural to manage when patients take them after a meal.

Like various treatment options, there’s no one-size-fits-all for the older patient when it comes to the right medication solution. Find out which one they prefer, then adjust the solutions as needed.

Regular medication helps in improving an older patient’s medical condition and quality of life. However, several patients struggle with taking their medicine regularly because of various factors. Learning their barriers and finding the right solutions helps older patients adhere to a medication routine.

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