Using Medication Adherence as an Indicator of Cognitive Dysfunction Among the Elderly

Anyone who has been required to take a medication on a daily basis can attest to the fact that it is very easy to forget or skip a dose. Imagine having to remember to take 6 or 7 medications everyday at different times of the day. This undoubtedly requires a certain level of cognitive ability and a clear mind to be able to organize all of one’s medications and to proceed to remember to take them. While one can usually stay adherent to his medications if some sort of system is set up for him, a decline in cognitive function and the development of dementia may nullify all efforts to keep track of and remain adherent to his medications.

This study assesses the possibility of using medication adherence as an indicator of the development of cognitive dysfunction in elderly individuals. This was a retrospective cross-sectional study, which examined 3351 Japanese patients with a mean age of 78.9 years old. Participants completed a comprehensive cognitive function test and got their medication use checked by clinical pharmacists. The Lawton’s instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) scale assessed participants’ abilities to carry out self-care tasks in 8 categories such as the ability to use a telephone, transportation use, ability to handle finances, and responsibility for own medications. The Barthel Index score assessed another 10 self-care categories and the MMSE (Mini-Mental State Examination) measured participants’ orientation in time and space, attention, memory, language, and constructive skills.

The results of this study demonstrated that those in the early stage of cognitive failure were unable to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) in the “shopping” and “responsibility for own medications” categories. Moreover, the data from this study showed that there was a significant association between poor medication adherence and many other factors such as the use of Alzheimer’s disease medication, advanced age, and low Barthel index scores. Of the 3351 patients in this study, 2753 had some sort of cognitive dysfunction, and almost all patients diagnosed with dementia demonstrated a lower adherence to their medications in this study.

This study reveals that IADL scores are an effective method of predicting cognitive dysfunction in elderly individuals. Medication adherence and the development of dementia are both extremely important issues that require immediate attention. Pharmacists can play a huge role in caring for the elderly by providing screenings to measure for cognitive dysfunction and, in doing so, monitoring the elderly’s medication adherence as well.

Mizokami F, Mase H, Kinoshita T, et al. Adherence to Medication Regimens is an Effective Indicator of Cognitive Dysfunction in Elderly Individuals. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2016; 31(2):132-36

1 thought on “Using Medication Adherence as an Indicator of Cognitive Dysfunction Among the Elderly”

  1. This study is really interesting because of the impact it could make on the role of the pharmacist. I think that pharmacists could use the relationship between cognitive decline and decreasing medication adherence to determine if cognitive decline is occurring in a patient. However, I don’t think that it can be the only determinant of cognitive decline because it is so easy to forget doses of medications, especially when patients have many different medications with many different schedules of doses. On the other hand, pharmacists could use their knowledge of the relationship between cognitive decline and medication adherence to improve their monitoring of patients’ adherence. If a patient is known to have cognitive dysfunction, a pharmacist should probably increase their monitoring of that patient’s adherence. Recognizing that nonadherence often comes with cognitive dysfunction is really important to the relationship between pharmacists and their patients.

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