One-Third to One-Half of Patients Neglect Prescriptions

by Lois Etienne on October 1, 2010

in Senior Health and Safety

Question: My mother, who is diabetic, takes so many pills that she sometimes gets confused.  I worry about her since she lives alone.  What are the risks and do you have any suggestions?

An estimated one-third to one-half of all patients in the U.S. don’t take their medications as prescribed by their doctors, according to the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI).  Chronic disease patients who do not consistently take their medications often experience preventable worsening of disease, becoming vulnerable to serious medical risks.

Among all patient groups, poor adherence poses an increased risk of hospitalizations, resulting in significant costs.  For example, among diabetes patients, those with low levels of adherence have almost twice the annual health care costs of those with high levels of adherence ($16,498 versus $8,886).  According to the NEHI, patients who don’t take their medications properly jeopardize their health as well as put a strain on the health-care system.

First, why not help your mom by checking with her doctor, her local pharmacy or online for a pill organizer.  This tool, which would provide a way for your mother to organize her pills in compartments by days of the week, could help ensure that she was taking her medications on schedule.

Second, consider assistance for your mother – perhaps even a caregiving companion.  Home Instead Senior Care hires CAREGivers to go into the homes of older adults and one of their most requested services is medication reminders.  A CAREGiver would prompt your mother to take her medications, which could ensure her safety and help put your mind at ease as well.

A CAREGiver might also assist your mother around her home with such tasks as meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping.  CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and the company makes every effort to match their employees with the interests and hobbies of the individual for whom they are providing care and companionship.

Since a full 75 percent of U.S. health care spending goes to the treatment of chronic disease, poor medication adherence presents a serious roadblock to efforts to improve health care efficiency and affordability.

For more information or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling Spokane509.835.5898, North King/Snohomish Counties: 425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties253.943.1603. You can also email us at

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