It’s true, the older we get the likelier we are to make mistakes with our medications. In fact, 55% of older adults don’t take their medications properly – that’s a big, big number, with devastating consequences!
While some of the reasons are understandable, like memory, other reasons like being cheap or lazy are simply inexcusable.
Here are the top 7 reasons seniors don’t take their medications:
1. Tight wallets: Now that you're on a fixed income you’re entitled to ask for the early bird special, the AARP discount and the senior saver. It's even ok to sneak in that extra packet of jam, ketchup, sugar, salt or pepper from time to time. But for the love of G-d, do not split your pills, take half doses or skip medication doses to save yourself a few bucks.
If your budget is pinched broach the topic of your medication costs with your insurance provider, Medicaid, senior center or doctor and see what resources are available to you. You can literally put yourself in the hospital or worse by changing dosages.
2. Playing Doctor: Some people stop taking their medications because they feel fine. Other stop taking their medications because it makes them feel lousy. Ask your doctor, caregiver or family member before making any changes to your medication regime – you may have been a great lawyer, plumber, teacher or mechanic, but you’re not a doctor, so don’t play one. Making changes on your own can cost you your life.
3. Confusion: Many older adults take over 5 medications at a time, up to 4 times a day. It’s easy to confuse pills, drop pills, forget pills, or simply get tired of taking the darned things. If your medication regimen is getting out of hand, consider asking your doctor for a 7 day daily dosage blister pack to help you get organized. You might even want to explore automated medication dispensers.
4. Physical Difficulty: Whether its arthritis or glaucoma, some people have physical challenges taking their pills. Opening tamper proof pill bottles is hard enough in the prime of your life, let alone when your fingers are stiffer than rebarb. To help seniors out use a pill dispenser instead of pill bottles - blister packs are best.
5. Memory: It’s not uncommon for seniors to forget instructions, forget they took a dose and double up, or forget to take a dose completely. If memory is an issue, consider starting with an automated medication dispenser with reminders and notifications to caregivers and family members in the event of missed doses. If that doesn’t work it may be time to seek an alternative to independent living.
6. Side Effects: Some seniors are afraid to take their meds because of their fear of the side effects. This is legitimate. Sometimes the cure can feel worse than the disease – no one likes to deal with nausea, headaches, insomnia, impotence, light headedness or any other number of misfortunes. The good news is we have more medications treating the same ailments types of ailments than ever. Speak with your doctor and see if you can try a different medication, with different side effects.
7. Paranoia: There are lots of stories – many true – on how doctors get kickbacks for prescribing certain medications. While skepticism is always warranted, if you don’t trust your doctor don’t dismiss his prescription outright – get a second opinion.