17 August 2016

Older people lack knowledge about their prescription medications

Many older people who take several prescription drugs do not know what these drugs are for and therefore often tend to not use them regularly, according to a study among elderly people in South Limburg conducted by Maastricht University. The results of this study were published on the website of the Dutch journal of Medicine.

The study found that many elderly patients with polypharmacy, the use of five or more chronic medications, do not understand why they have been prescribed these drugs, which can lead to medication non-compliance. This is particularly true of male patients and patients over the age of eighty. Patients who live at home with a partner tend to know more about their prescribed medication use. Older people who live in a nursing home or care home are the least informed. Only 15% of all elderly people in the study (754 in total) could explain why their medications were prescribed.

According to the researchers, patients can benefit from clear explanations by a doctor, nurse or chemist, clear visual or written instructions on how to take the medication, and special medication dispensers. If patients struggle to understand their drug indications, they will likely struggle to interpret and describe the potential side effects of these drugs. In situations like these, it's important to discuss any medication changes not only with the patient, but also with a family member or caregiver.

Click here to listen to an interview with head researcher Donna Bosch-Lenders on the Dutch news programme NOS Radio 1 Journaal (in Dutch).