Many studies have shown that patients make serious mistakes with their medicines. The elderly, with increasing forgetfulness and confusion, are particularly at risk,1 and are prescribed about three times as many medicines as the younger members of the population. Many elderly patients are at least mildly demented and yet over half receive regular treatment.2 3 Most old people may make some errors, the commonest being omission, but only a few of these are likely to be serious.4 The patients most at risk may be those on a drug with a narrow therapeutic ratio (e. g. anticoagulants) and those in whom loss of control of the disease is serious (e.g. epilepsy). This article examines why the elderly make mistakes and what can be done to prevent them. Many of the suggestions apply to non-compliant patients of any age.
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