Why Mom doesn’t take her pills

Did your mom teach you to “do what the doctor says”? If she’s not following doctor’s orders for medications now, you’re probably feeling confused. And concerned.

It’s common for patients not to take pills as directed. Some typical reasons:

  • “It’s too costly.” One quarter of new prescriptions are never filled because of cost. Make sure the drug is on the insurance plan formulary. Or ask about generics. Find a discount pharmacy, or consider mail order.
  • “I don’t have symptoms.” Many illnesses lack noticeable symptoms. High blood pressure and high cholesterol, for example. These prescriptions often go unfilled. Many people don’t finish their antibiotics for similar reasons: the symptoms went away. Ask the doctor or pharmacist to review with your loved one why a medication is necessary.
  • “It made things worse.” Consult with the doctor or pharmacist. Reducing the dose or changing from morning to evening may fix the problem. Or taking a different medication may be advised.
  • “It was too complicated.” Some drugs require multiple doses in a day. Others are restrictive (“30 minutes before eating”). Ask the doctor or pharmacist about alternatives.
  • “I can’t get the bottle open” or “I can’t read the label.” Arthritic hands and poor eyesight can make it difficult to follow directions. Ask the pharmacist for large type on the label and a NON-child-proof container.
  • “Why bother?” Hopelessness and depression are common reasons why people don’t take their medications. If you suspect depression, ask the doctor to do an evaluation.  
  • “It won’t do anything.” Perhaps your loved one has an entirely different interpretation of what is wrong with their health. Ask to learn more.
  • “I forgot.” Simple memory lapses are a fact of aging. It may be time for an automated pill dispenser or pills that are pre-packaged into morning, noon and night time doses.