Medication self-management: Considerations and decisions by older people living at home

Authors Nienke E Dijkstra , Carolien Sino , Marieke Schuurmans , Lisette Schoonhoven , Eibert Heerdink
Published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Publication date 16 September 2020
Research groups Chronic Diseases
Type Article


Background Medication self-management is complicated for older people. Little is known about older persons’ considerations and decisions concerning medication therapy at home. Objective (s): To explore how older people living at home self-manage their medication and what considerations and decisions underpin their medication self-management behavior. Methods Semi-structured interviews with consenting participants (living at home, aged ≥65, ≥5 different prescription medications daily) were recorded and transcribed with supporting photographs. Content was analyzed with a directed approach and presented according to three phases of medication self-management (initiation, execution, and discontinuation). Results Sixty people were interviewed. In the initiation phase, participants used different techniques to inform healthcare professionals and to fill and check prescriptions. Over-the-counter medication was seldom discussed, and potential interactions were unknown to the participants. Some participants decided to not start treatment after reading the patient information leaflets for fear of side effects. In the execution phase, participants had various methods for integrating the use of new and chronic medication in daily life. Usage problems were discussed with healthcare professionals, but side effects were not discussed, since the participants were not aware that the signs and symptoms of side effects could be medication-related. Furthermore, participants stored medication in various (sometimes incorrect) ways and devised their own systems for ordering and filling repeat prescriptions. In the discontinuation phase, some participants decided to stop or change doses by themselves (because of side effects, therapeutic effects, or a lack of effect). They also mentioned different considerations regarding medication disposal and disposed their medication (in)correctly, stored it for future use, or distributed it to others. Conclusions Participants’ considerations and decisions led to the following: problems in organizing medication intake, inadequate discussion of medication-related information with healthcare professionals, and incorrect and undesirable medication storage and disposal. There is a need for medication self-management observation, monitoring, and assistance by healthcare professionals.


Language English
Published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Key words medication self-management, self-management, medication use, adherence, Home care, polypharmacy, older people, qualitative research

Chronic Diseases