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Understanding and Combating Medication Non-Compliance
Older adults are the largest users of prescription and over the counter medications. The changes that occur with aging make people more likely to suffer medication-related problems. Caregivers can play a key role in helping to prevent the costly and unwanted negative consequences, such as admission to hospitals, assisted living facilities or nursing homes. About one quarter of all nursing home admissions are due, at least in part, to the inability to take medications correctly.
In this post, we share some common causes of medication non-compliance, and our solutions to combat these issues, including:


Some seniors have difficulty remembering to take medications, or which medications to take and when they are supposed to be taken.  Seniors often have several different prescriptions that may have different requirements in terms of timing and frequency, which can be confusing for seniors with memory issues.

Some solutions to this problem include:

  • Pill boxes: Pill boxes can be set-up by family members to organize a week’s worth of medications.  We prefer containers with compartments labeled for morning and bedtime, or containers that coincide with your loved one’s daily habits and patterns.
  • Medication dispensing machines: Happier at Home offers a medication dispensing machine that holds up to 16 different medications, and up to a 90-day supply of each medication. The machine is tamper-proof and is programmed to dispense the appropriate dose of the correct medication at the correct time. Once the medication is dispensed, an alarm will chime, reminding your loved one it is time to take their medications.
  • Reminder phone calls: Sometimes a simple telephone call to remind your loved one it is time to take their medication will do the trick.
  • Caregivers: Our caregivers can make medication reminders part of their daily routine with your loved one – ensuring safety and medication compliance.


The tiny print on the labels of prescription bottles can make it very difficult for seniors to be able to read the correct dose and frequency recommended by their doctor and pharmacist.
We recommend asking your pharmacist to provide prescription labels in large print.  Additionally, health care providers and caregivers can read the information on over-the-counter products for consumers with vision impairment. It may also be helpful to purchase a magnifying glass with a light to provide ease of reading.


Difficulty hearing instructions from health care professionals can cause confusion around medications. Ask the pharmacist to write down important and relevant information.  Our caregivers can also be “the ears” for seniors with hearing impairments, and relay important information back to family or friends caring for the senior.

Hesitant to Ask Clarifying Questions

Many seniors were taught that it is disrespectful to question authority, and therefore they don’t ask clarifying questions of their doctors, pharmacists or other healthcare professionals.
If you know a senior who fits this description, we recommend making sure someone else attends appointments with them to be able to ask those clarifying questions and get the answers needed to ensure medication compliance—proper understanding of clear instructions and directions is critical in ensuring medication safety.


Many seniors have issues with dexterity for several reasons.  Difficulty opening bottles, inability to break tablets, problems handling medicines such as eye drops, inhalers for asthma and other lung disease, and insulin injections are all common dexterity problems.
Ask the pharmacist if large, easy-open bottle tops are available for prescription medicines.  Tell your doctor and pharmacist about these concerns to see what they recommend.  Family caregivers are often key to assisting with the administration of eye drops, inhaled medications, injections and other dosage forms that require fine motor skills – so be sure those caring for your senior loved one are able to assist if needed.


Sometimes seniors experience difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules.  Ask your pharmacist about alternative dosage forms, or if splitting pills might be helpful.
Medication non-compliance is one of the top causes of hospitalization and nursing home admissions among seniors.  Understanding common reasons for medication non-compliance and ways to address these issues is important.

Please give us a call to learn how our team of caregivers at Happier at Home can help.
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