3 Reasons Why Seniors Aren’t Taking Medication as Prescribed and How to Help

taking medication as prescribed

Missing medication doses seriously affects senior health

Taking medication as prescribed is one area of health that older adults and family caregivers can control.

The number of people who skip medication doses on purpose is shockingly high. Studies show that 50% of medications for chronic diseases aren’t taken as prescribed.

This is a problem because missing medication doses has serious consequences for older adults. According to a top medical journal, it causes about 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations every year.

In her New York Times article, Jane E. Brody shares the 3 top reasons why people purposely don’t take their medicine and why it’s so important to take it as prescribed.

We summarize the key points from the article and share suggestions for what to do if seniors aren’t able to take medication as directed due to financial or other reasons.



3 top reasons why seniors aren’t taking medication as prescribed

1. They don’t believe in taking pills
There are many people who just don’t believe in taking medication, even when they have serious health conditions like heart attack, kidney failure, or vascular disease.

Others find that taking medications remind them that they’re sick, so they avoid them altogether.

Some people try to use natural remedies instead. For example, taking fish oil instead of prescribed statins for heart disease. Unfortunately, the fish oil doesn’t work for that purpose and can’t prevent heart attack in someone who is at risk.

It’s great to use lifestyle changes and a healthy diet to improve overall health, but there are many situations where drugs are absolutely necessary because of a serious health condition.

2. They think not taking medication is harmless if they feel OK
Sometimes people will stop taking their prescribed medication for a few weeks to see what will happen or how they feel.

When they feel fine, they assume the medication isn’t needed because it wasn’t doing anything.

Unfortunately, patients won’t be able to tell if drugs that treat diseases like heart disease or high blood pressure are working.

That’s because those types of health conditions have no noticeable symptoms. They’ll only find out that the medication was truly needed when they have a heart attack or stroke – when it’s clearly too late.

3. They think it’s not worth the cost
Medication can be expensive, but even when it’s affordable, some people think it’s not worth it. They may feel like their health condition isn’t a big deal, so why spend money on medicine?

When medication is expensive, some people feel even more strongly about not taking it. Or, if money is tight, some will take less than the prescribed dose to make the pills last longer.

Unfortunately, that just makes the medicine less effective.

In the short run, it might seem like not taking medication is a good way to save money. But in the long run, it will likely cost significantly more in hospital and medical bills when a health crisis hits.


What to do if seniors aren’t able to take medication as prescribed

If side effects, financial problems, or other issues prevent your older adult from taking their medicine, discuss it with their doctor right away.

They can help your older adult find the right treatment and refer you to resources that can help.

For example, there are programs that help with prescription costs, tips for convincing seniors with dementia to take medication, pill organizers to keep track of doses, and reminder services so seniors won’t forget.


Next Step  Find out why taking medication as prescribed is essential for senior health in the full article at the New York Times


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Edison Home Health Care


This article wasn’t sponsored and doesn’t contain affiliate links. For more information, see How We Make Money.


  • Reply April 26, 2017

    Joseph Dabon

    Hi! I like the article and agree with it completely.

    I am taking anti-hypertension pills and told my daughter, a doctor, that I may be able to get by without it. She insisted that I should because BP can sometimes spike.

    One day I forgot to take it and remembered in the afternoon when I felt so woozy? I was feeling tired, dizzy and my chest was pumping fast.

    I immediately took it but learned a lesson the hard way.

    • Reply April 26, 2017


      Thank you for sharing to let others know why it’s so important to take medication as the doctor has prescribed. I’m glad that nothing serious happened to you when you skipped your pill!

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