Enhancing patient compliance in the elderly. Role of packaging aids and monitoring

Drugs Aging. 1998 Jan;12(1):7-15. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199812010-00002.


Inadequate compliance with medications is a significant contributor to the costs of medical care in every therapeutic area. No matter how severe the consequence, there is no assurance that all patients will take their medications as prescribed. Elderly patients are a particular concern because of their common deficits in physical dexterity, cognitive skills and memory, and the number of medications that they are typically prescribed. To overcome problems of compliance in the elderly, healthcare providers are advised to prescribe a simple dosage regimen for all medications to be taken (preferably 1 or 2 doses daily), to help the patient select cues that assist them in remembering to take doses (time of day, meal-time, or other daily rituals), to provide devices to simplify remembering doses (medication boxes), and to regularly monitor compliance. A variety of compliance aids are available to help patients organise their medications (e.g. plastic boxes) or remember dose times (alarms). Medication packaged in standard pharmacy bottles should be identified with special labels, or dose charts can be provided to check the daily schedule. Single-unit doses, widely used in hospitals, may be cumbersome for elderly patients who have difficulty opening the foil-backed wrappers. Medication boxes with compartments that are filled weekly by the patient, family member or a home healthcare provider are useful organisers that simplify the patient's responsibilities for self-administration. Microelectronic devices can provide feedback that shows patients whether they have been taking doses as scheduled. Some systems are also designed to notify patients within a day if doses were omitted. No system is optimal for all patients, but elderly patients deserve a comprehensive assessment of their needs to enhance medication compliance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Drug Packaging*
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Physiologic*
  • Patient Compliance* / psychology