Problems involving missed medication increases with age and failing memory, a new study suggests.

In a study involving more than 4,100 seniors aged 65 and above from North Carolina who had health conditions including poor vision, poor hearing, or a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack or cancer, the researchers found that as age increases, having trouble taking the right medications at the right time increases as well.

For instance, at the start of the study, only seven percent of the participants required help in taking their medications. However, among those who did not need help at the start of the study, 11 percent already required some assistance three years later. In total, compared to those in the 65-69 age group, those who are 80 and above are 1.5 to three times more likely to need assistance in taking medications.

Furthermore, men were 1.5 to two times more likely to require help in taking medication than women.

Other factors that contributed to medication lapses include memory deficit and trouble performing daily tasks.

The lead author of the study notes that medication lapses can have serious consequences such as worsening of symptoms or health conditions, as well as the occurrence of serious side effects.

As one of the most accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists can help prevent drug-related problems in the elderly. Aside from dispensing medications, they are a source of information for senior patients and their caregivers, and can help monitor drug use and communicate with patients and other healthcare providers such as doctors to ensure optimal pharmaceutical care.

A pharmacist can help senior patients to adhere to their medications by:

• Recognizing medical conditions that commonly affect the elderly population.
• Identifying problems that can arise from use of certain drugs, including those that can cause, aggravate or increase the risk for certain medical conditions.
• Assessing the patient’s capability to stick to a drug regimen including noticing certain impairments.
• Educating patients on how to use medications in different drug delivery systems (e.g. inhalers, transdermal patches).
• Ensuring that medication labels are clearly printed and in the language understood by the patient.
• Eliminating complexity and duplication in the drug regimen.
• Giving advice on healthy living practices and disease prevention.
• Teaching patients how to use medication adherence tools such as drug calendar reminders, labelled pillboxes and commercially available drug boxes, electronic drug-dispensing devices, and pill splitters or crushers. MIMS