Pharmacy Technician and the majority of patients I encounter are elderly. I wasn’t sure where I was going to do my observation but then realized what better place than where I work in the pharmacy. Our older patients tend to be on more medications and have more chronic health conditions than our younger ones and it seems the elderly have a harder time being compliant with their medications. The most common reason for non-compliance is slight or moderate memory loss.
They cannot distinguish between medications or remember to take them. Elderly have more difficulty following medical advice than our younger patients. Most do not ask for clarification when they do not understand. This is harmful because the elderly are more sensitive to the consequences of non-compliance. When medications are not taken correctly, not only does it result in increased health risks, side effects, treatment failure, disease progression and increased medical expenses for the elderly, there are also negative consequences for others as well.
It leads to extra work and costs for the patient’s doctor and pharmacy staff. Elderly patients often exhibit a negative attitude towards their medications. They fear side effects, the increasing cost of prescriptions, and often they feel they are not improving. Medicare drug plans are very confusing to everyone but they are especially confusing to the elderly. Deductibles, drug tiers, formulates, and coverage gaps are a lot to explain and it is difficult to ensure to them not to get discouraged and most importantly keep taking their medications.
Other difficulties I face with the elderly in the pharmacy are they tend to have one or more sensory disabilities such as hearing loss, vision impairments, arthritis, and problems swallowing large pills. There are many ways we can make things easier for these patients such as one on one consultation, large print, easy-open non-child proof caps and preparing their medications as liquids or pills that are able to be split or crushed. Many of our elderly patients have difficulty walking and we offer to liver, mail or encourage them to use our drive-thru for pick up.
Many of the elderly patients I encounter are unaware of what the name of each medication they are on and what each medication is taken for. Most often I am told, “l need my little white pill filled”. I ask “Do you know what it is for? ” trying to determine which medication they are speaking of. And the answer is most always “No”. When this happens I try to go over with them each medication on their profile and educate them on names and what each are used for.
Adherence improves if the patient has better understanding and a positive attitude towards their medications. Compliance is the most important role we need to have of our elderly patients as they are the most sensitive to many medications and the risks of not taking them correctly. Using a pill box or medication reminder device is the best advice we can offer to our elderly patients. Also by encouraging them to keep a medication record importance of each medication and to be educated on what they are used for with our elderly patients.