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Why Don't Elderly People Follow Doctors Orders for Medications? 55% of Prescriptions Filled Aren't Taken Correctly

NAPLES, Fla., May 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A common question asked by people taking care of elderly parents is: "Is it dangerous if mom forgets to take her medication, or splits pills to save money?"

Not taking medications properly can be extremely dangerous. More than 125,000 people die each year due to prescription medication non-adherence, twice the number killed in car accidents, according to the National Council for Patient Information and Education.

Here are some common reasons why seniors don't take their medications as prescribed, and what to do about it.  

Vision Problems

Not being able to read small print on labels or distinguish between pills can lead to dangerous misuse.


  • People with vision problems should ask the pharmacist for medication labels in large print size.

Memory Loss

People with dementia or Alzheimer's disease may forget to take their medications, resulting in skipped doses or overdoses.


  • Use a pill organizer. Available products include: computerized pill box dispensers that call a designated number if pills aren't taken, watch alarms and necklaces with audio reminders.  


Elders who can't afford medications may split pills, cut back the dose, or go without for long stretches of time.  


  • Ask if a generic, less-expensive alternative is available.  
  • Research Prescription Assistance and ask the pharmacy about discount programs.  

Swallowing Problems

Seniors who have trouble swallowing try to chew, crush, break or mix the tablet in food or drink, causing long-acting medications to be released into the body too quickly.


  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist if the drug comes in a liquid form.

Hearing Loss

Hearing problems can impede an elderly person's ability to hear instructions.  


  • Get instructions in writing.
  • Don't be embarrassed: If the doctor or pharmacist is speaking too softly or too fast, ask them to repeat the instructions.
  • Elders should always wear their hearing aid to doctor's appointments and pharmacies.

Social Isolation

Studies show that people who live alone more often fail to comply with medication regimens.


  • Consider home health care and let the agency know that the elder needs help taking their medications.

About is a leading online community that connects people caring for elderly parents to other caregivers, personalized information, and local resources. has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care solutions. For more information, visit

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