Not Taking Medication as Prescribed Harms Senior Health

3 reasons why seniors aren’t taking medication as prescribed

Missing medication doses seriously affects senior health

Not taking prescribed medication has serious consequences for older adults. 

According to a top medical journal, this causes about 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations every year.

But 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. 

In a New York Times article, Jane E. Brody shares the main reasons why people purposely don’t take their medicine and the importance of taking medication as prescribed.

We highlight 3 key points from the article and share suggestions for what to do if seniors aren’t able to take medication as prescribed due to financial reasons.


3 reasons why seniors are not taking prescribed medication

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

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

And some people want to use natural remedies instead. Of course, making healthy lifestyle and diet changes to improve overall health is always recommended. 

However, there are many situations where medications are absolutely necessary to manage a serious health condition. That’s why it’s essential to follow the doctor’s instructions.

For example, instead of taking statins prescribed by their doctor for heart disease, someone might try to take fish oil supplements.

Fish oil might be a helpful supplement for someone who doesn’t eat fish, but it can’t reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke like a prescription statin would. Not taking the prescription could worsen the person’s health.

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

If they feel fine, they assume the medication isn’t needed because nothing bad happened when they stopped taking it.

Unfortunately, there are many diseases that can significantly damage health without any noticeable symptoms.

For example, without a doctor’s evaluation, a person wouldn’t be able to notice if drugs that treat diseases like heart disease or high blood pressure are working.

They would only find out that the medication was truly needed when they had a heart attack or stroke – when it’s clearly too late.

3. They think taking medication isn’t worth the cost
Medication can be expensive, but even when cost isn’t an issue, 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?

And when medication is expensive, people may feel even more strongly about not taking it. 

In situations where money is tight, some will take less than the prescribed dose to make the pills last longer. Unfortunately, that only 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, the effects of not taking medication will likely cost significantly more in medical bills when a health emergency happens.


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

If negative side effects or financial concerns result in your older adult not taking prescribed medication, discuss it with their doctor right away. 

They can help find a treatment that works better or refer you to helpful resources.

For example, there are programs that help with prescription costs, tips for convincing someone with dementia to take medication, and pill organizers to keep track of doses.


Next Step > Find out why not taking prescribed medication harms senior health in the full article at the New York Times


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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  • Reply September 27, 2019


    My very elderly mother says she wants to die (what for live so long?) so she wants to stop taking her meds for high blood pressure. At home, she was hiding and spitting out her pills when I gave them to her. Now in a care home, they make sure she takes the pills.

    • Reply September 28, 2019


      It’s wonderful that you’ve found a way to help your mother get the care she needs.

  • Reply September 27, 2019


    Good Advice. We all Seniors take heed of it ad act in our own and in the interest of our family members.

  • 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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