Medication Management Strategies by Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Multisite Qualitative Analysis

J Patient Saf. 2024 Apr 1;20(3):192-197. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000001200. Epub 2024 Feb 16.


Objectives: Community-dwelling older adults taking 5 or more medications are at risk for medication-related harm. Managing multiple medications is a challenging task for patients and caregivers. Community-dwelling older adults self-manage their medications with minimal healthcare professional supervision. Although organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration, often issue guidelines to ensure medication safety, how older adults understand and mitigate the risk of harm from medication use in the home environment is poorly understood.

Methods: We conducted semistructured interviews with community-dwelling older adults 65 years and older who took 5 or more prescription medications to explore medication safety strategies they use. We also compared 2 organizations' medication safety guidelines for areas of concordance and discordance.

Results: A total of 28 older adults were interviewed. Four overarching themes of medication management strategies emerged: collaborating with prescribers, collaborating with pharmacists, learning about medications, and safe practices at home. Study findings revealed that older adults followed some of the published guidelines by the 2 government organizations, although there were some areas of discord. Some of the strategies used were unintentionally against the recommended guidelines. For example, older adults tried weaning themselves off their medications without notifying their providers.

Conclusions: Older adults and their caregivers in our study used strategies different from those recommended by government organizations in managing medications to enhance drug safety. Patient-provider collaboration and positive patient outcomes can be improved by understanding and respecting strategies older adults use at home. Future studies must effectively incorporate older adults' perspectives when developing medication safety guidelines.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caregivers
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Independent Living*
  • Medication Therapy Management*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations