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Older adults can take medicines more safely and effectively by charting their daily routines
Date:9/9/2008

WASHINGTON Older adults may be better able to comply with medication regimens by working with providers to fill out simple paper tables that track what they take and when they take it. Recent experiments found that use of a "medtable" may help to prevent medication-related problems. A report appears in the September issue of Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, published by the American Psychological Association.

As they age, people often take several different prescription medications. Yet about half of older adults are found to take medicine incorrectly and up to one in three of their hospital admissions is blamed on faulty medication use. Weak collaboration with health-care providers, along with cognitive problems and lower health literacy, are viewed as contributors.

Psychologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign led by Daniel Morrow, PhD, found that when pairs of older adults filled out a written matrix listing medications and instructions by days and times to take them, they solved medication-related problems more efficiently and accurately, especially for the complex medication schedules increasingly common among older adults.

In Experiment 1, 96 participants averaging 69 years in age were randomly assigned to the role of patient or provider. These pairs were randomly assigned to use a pre-designed medtable, a blank piece of paper or no aid. To simulate real life, the researchers varied information about both medication and patient.

In a complex-medication condition, the researchers provided information about four medications commonly used by older adults (for example, for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and osteoporosis), including purpose, number of pills and times per day to take them, dose spacing, and special instructions or warnings. In a simple-medication condition, there were two medications with fewer constraints on when they could be taken together.

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