According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 82% of American Adults take at least one medication; 29% take five or more. Further, 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations are due to adverse drug events (ADEs). The number of adverse drug interactions is likely to grow due, in part, to aging/elderly adults. Older adults are twice as likely as their younger counterparts to come to the emergency department for ADEs (over 177,000 a year) and seven times more likely to be hospitalized.


There are six reasons why the elderly are more likely to make medication errors:


  1. Vision Problems – The elderly may not be able to read the small print; ask your pharmacists for large print.
  2. Memory Loss – Those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may forget to take medications; pill organizers and computerized alarms or watches may be able to help remind the forgetful.
  3. Income –Those with low or fixed incomes cannot afford all or some of their medications; this results in missed dosages or half dosages. Ask for generic medications, when appropriate, research prescription assistance programs,
  4. Swallowing Problems – Health conditions may make swallowing medications difficult. Never chew or crush or break a medication unless your doctor or pharmacists says it is alright to do so. Ask the doctor to prescribe liquids when appropriate.
  5. Hearing Loss – The inability to hear directions can result in medication errors. Be sure to wear hearing aid devices to appointment. When possible bring a trusted family member or friend to assist with directions.
  6. Social Isolation – Many seniors live alone which makes them more likely to fail to comply with a medical regime; they may not eat well, be dehydrated and lack physical exercise, all of which can effect medications. If possible get help from family, friends or outside paid help.


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