Objective: The number of older adults with bipolar disorder is increasing, yet little is known about the optimal clinical management of these patients. Medication adherence is a vital to effective long-term treatment of these patients; thus enhancement of adherence is often an important clinical goal.
Design: We reviewed available evidence about the characteristics of later-life bipolar disorder along with behavioral and organizational strategies to enhance adherence in this population.
Results: Based on available data, cognitive impairment, medical comorbidity, and functional limitations are frequent and are likely to impact treatment adherence in this population. In terms of treatment, there have been no placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials of medications or psychosocial interventions for this population. Based on extrapolation from intervention research on younger adults with bipolar disorder and older adults with other chronic illness, psychosocial interventions that reduce effortful cognitive processing in managing medications and reduce organizational barriers to adherence may be beneficial in enhancing adherence in this population.
Conclusions: Much more research needs to be done to understand the impact of aging on bipolar disorder, along with optimization of treatment. Interventions to enhance adherence in this population need to be adapted to fit with the unique needs of older adults with bipolar disorder.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; medication adherence; older adults; psychosocial interventions.