Older adults often don’t adhere to the instructions given by doctors while prescribing medications. Now, researchers have suggested that applying behaviour-changing strategies might improve their abilities to take drugs as required.

Lead researcher, Vicki Conn, from University of Missouri insist that applying behavior changing strategies, such as using pill boxes or reducing the number of daily doses, can improve older adults’ medical adherence.

“It is very important for physicians and nurses to move past educating patients about the need for medication and focus on teaching behavior strategies,” said Conn. “Implementing these strategies can help older adults take their medications, resulting in better health and well-being,” Conn added.

The researchers found that behaviour-changing strategies have a greater impact on medication adherence than reinforcing the importance of taking medication to patients. Effective strategies include reducing the number of doses taken daily, prescribing medications so they can be taken at the same time as other medications, and encouraging the use of pill boxes. Giving patients clear, easy to read instructions for the medications also proved to be effective.

There are many reasons older adults have difficulties with medications, Conn said. Vision changes can interfere with reading medication bottles, and arthritis can make it difficult to handle pills and containers. However, the majority of adherence problems are not related to physical health. For example, many people simply forget to take their medications. “There are approaches to overcome almost all problems,” said David Mehr, co-author of the study and director of research in the MU Department of Family and Community Medicine. “It makes a huge difference in patients’ adherence and health if they have some type of organized system for taking medication.” David added. The study was published in The Gerontologist.

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