The New Old Age: A Prescription for Confusion: When to Take All Those Pills

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The New York Times.

December 18, 2015 Paula Span THE NEW OLD AGE

“Imagine that your doctor has prescribed you these medications,” the researchers told the older adults, aged 55 to 74, who were participating in an experiment at several Chicago health centers.

“Please show me when you would take these medicines over the course of one day.” After reading the instructions on seven pill bottles, the participants were asked to distribute them in a medication box with 24 slots, one for each hour of the day.

Ideally, the seven meds could have been grouped into just four dosings per day. But only 15 percent of the 464 subjects grasped that possibility. Most commonly, they decided they needed to take pills six times a day; one-third organized the pills into seven daily doses.

Two of the drugs carried identical instructions, but a third of participants didn’t realize that they could be taken together. Almost 80 percent didn’t understand that they could take two drugs together if one label read “every 12 hours” and the other “twice daily” — even though, in this context, they meant the same thing.

“We learn over and over…

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