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What affects elderly patients’ ability to take drugs safely?
Cognitive function and socioeconomic status affect the ability of elderly patients to take oral prescription drugs safely.
Pharmacists specialised in geriatric practice and a geriatric social worker interviewed 57 elderly individuals selected from three retirement communities and a daycare centre, to evaluate how they took their prescribed medications according to dosage, indication, food or water coingestion, and regimen.
Most subjects managed their own drug therapy; 70% used reminder systems, such as a calendar or pillbox. Correct dosage was reported for 94% of the 325 prescribed agents, correct indication for 95%, correct coingestion with food or water 97%, and correct regimen for 89%. The most frequent problem was underdosing of cardiovascular drugs. Multiple regression analysis revealed that Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores and Medicaid assistance in the last
10 years were significant predictors of test scores. Education, depression and drug self-management were not significantly correlated with scores.
Although the test identified some adherence problems, follow-up evaluation by a pharmacist identified additional potentially significant problems in 20% of subjects.