Medication compliance is important for every patient, but it becomes even more important for elderly patients; here’s why.
Elderly patients often have several medications to keep up with and take. Unfortunately, this patient group is well-known for often not taking their prescriptions for a variety of reasons. Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and others similarly employed in the healthcare industry should take steps to do their part to make sure their elderly patients take their medications and continue to do so until the end of their treatment period.
Reasons for Noncompliance
There are, in fact, several factors that play a part in an elderly patient not taking her or his medication as directed. The individual might not understand the instructions, might not be able to afford the prescription, might not be able to tolerate the medication’s side effects or the patient might not have received the proper education on the medication. There’s also the fact that the patient might have several other prescriptions to take and could forget to take one or more.
It’s also not unheard of for there to be language barriers between patient and doctor, which can lead to the patient not knowing the right way to take a medication, if she or he takes it at all. Physicians also have to make sure they properly encourage their patients to take their prescriptions, and in-office dispensing can most certainly help with that.
When a patient doesn’t take a prescription, he or she runs the risk of being admitted to the hospital, which results in unnecessary medical costs. There are also cases of a patient needing to be admitted to a nursing home due to failure to take medication. Diseases and medical conditions can worsen if an elderly patient doesn’t follow medication compliance, and his or her current treatment might not be as effective.
For senior citizens who work, medical noncompliance can result in a slump in overall productivity. No matter the consequence, it’s clear that there’s a lot at stake when it comes to elderly patients not taking their prescriptions.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell when an elderly patient runs a high risk of being medication noncompliant, which is why it’s so essential that doctors, nurses and pharmacists remain diligent about doing everything they can to encourage patients to fill and take their prescriptions. One way to do this is to schedule follow-up appointments to see how patients are doing. Those who are admitted to the hospital should be properly discharged and have a solid discharge plan. Healthcare professionals should also be sure their elderly patients understand their illness or condition so that they comprehend how the medication will help treat their condition or illness.
Before ending an appointment, it’s a good idea to ask patients if they will have or think they might have problems getting or taking their medication. Some might not have a way to get to the pharmacist or not have the money or insurance to pay for a prescription. Even if a patient is able to fill a prescription, he or she might not be able to make out the directions due to being hard of hearing or having poor eyesight, which is something else nurses and doctors should be sure to address.
Medication Compliance Tools
Besides the methods mentioned above, there are additional steps healthcare professionals can take to better ensure elderly patients follow medication compliance. For instance, counting the number of pills left in a prescription and comparing it to the patient’s dosage determines whether the patient has been taking the medication. Doctors and nurses can also simply ask patients if they’ve been taking their medication and ascertaining why not if the individual hasn’t. Dispensing medications in-office is an alternative way to track if patients are taking their medications correctly, as they can keep a better eye on prescription refill dates.
The Importance of Trust
For all the tools and methods used to address medication compliance, none of them are as effective as healthcare providers making sure they form a strong degree of trust with their patients. It’s this trust that not only increases the chances of the patient taking his or her medication, but being content with the treatment results.
By spending more time with patients and knocking down any barriers that might be in their way, it’s entirely possible to improve medication compliance. The smallest of efforts can save time, money and lives.