Taking medications when you’re older: Common problems and simple solutions

The older you are, the more likely you take several medications. According to the American Geriatric Society, people over 65 buy more than 25 percent of all prescription medicines and 30 percent of all nonprescription medicines.

For many reasons, elderly people often have difficulty taking their medications as prescribed. We have some simple solutions that might help.

Common problems and solutions

Hearing loss

  • Ask the pharmacist to write out the instructions and make them easy to read.
  • If you have a hearing aid, make sure to wear it.

Vision loss

  • Ask the pharmacist for large print labels.

Swallowing problem

  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before crushing a pill or mixing it (or a capsule) with food or liquid because it may no longer work properly.
  • Ask the pharmacist if a liquid form is available.

Memory loss

  • Try using a pill organizer, which range from a very simple weekly container to ones with built in alarms.

Can’t open the bottle

  • Ask the pharmacist for an easy to open cap.

Not all medication problems can be solved so simply, but it’s a good starting point.

Elderly are more sensitive to many drugs

The American Geriatric Society publishes a tool for healthcare professionals that lists medications that could potentially cause problems in older adults. It’s called the Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults — named after the late geriatrician Dr. Mark Beers. A panel of health care and pharmacy experts helped develop the criteria by reviewing more than 2,000 research studies about medications prescribed for older adults.

While it was created primarily for clinicians, it can also be helpful for patients and caregivers. It’s important to understand these points about the criteria:

  1. Medications on the list are potentially inappropriate, not definitely.
  2. You need to read the rationale and recommendations for each criterion.
  3. You also need to read why a medication is included on the list.
  4. The list should be used as a starting point to review and discuss all the medications someone may be taking.
  5. If you are a patient, you should not stop taking a drug because it’s part of the Beers criteria. You should discuss it with your provider — ask if it’s the right choice for you and if there are safer or more effective alternatives. (It’s something you should be asking about any medication prescribed for you.)

If you’d like more information about how to use the Beers Criteria, here’s a guide published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Keep a record of all medications

No matter what your age, it’s important to keep an up-to-date list of any prescription and nonprescription medications you’re taking, including herbal or dietary supplements and any creams or ointments. The Geriatric Society has a drug diary (PDF) you can print and fill out. Make sure to bring it with you to all medical appointments, and also bring a list of any questions or concerns you have about any of your medications.

About Advantage Home Care

Advantage Home Care provides a wide variety of in-home senior services that includes medication reminders and picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy. If you would like to learn more about our caregivers and the services we offer, please visit our websitesend us an email or give us a call at 1-888-846-1410 or 207-699-2570.

Our blog is written by Diane Atwood, who also writes the blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood. Let us know if there is a particular topic you’d like us to cover.

Categories: Blog and Healthy Living, Safety and Fitness.


  1. I totally agree with you that once you get older, then you suffer from many problems and then u have to take medicines which cause a lot of problems. Some old people are sensitive to many medicines or sometimes forget to take medicines. Thanks for sharing the blog and helping out with some solutions that can make this problem easy.


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