Practical problems with medication use that older people experience: a qualitative study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Dec;62(12):2339-44. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13126.


Objectives: To identify the practical problems that older people experience with the daily use of their medicines and their management strategies to address these problems and to determine the potential clinical relevance thereof.

Design: Qualitative study with semistructured face-to-face interviews.

Setting: A community pharmacy and a geriatric outpatient ward.

Participants: Community-dwelling people aged 70 and older (N = 59).

Measurements: Participants were interviewed at home. Two researchers coded the reported problems and management strategies independently according to a coding scheme. An expert panel classified the potential clinical relevance of every identified practical problem and associated management strategy using a 3-point scale.

Results: Two hundred eleven practical problems and 184 management strategies were identified. Ninety-five percent of the participants experienced one or more practical problems with the use of their medicines: problems reading and understanding the instructions for use, handling the outer packaging, handling the immediate packaging, completing preparation before use, and taking the medicine. For 10 participants, at least one of their problems, in combination with the applied management strategy, had potential clinical consequences and 11 cases (5% of the problems) had the potential to cause moderate or severe clinical deterioration.

Conclusion: Older people experience a number of practical problems using their medicines, and their strategies to manage these problems are sometimes suboptimal. These problems can lead to incorrect medication use with clinically relevant consequences. The findings pose a challenge for healthcare professionals, drug developers, and regulators to diminish these problems.

Keywords: adherence; medication use; medicines; older people; qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease Management
  • Drug Labeling
  • Drug Packaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Qualitative Research


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations