Self-Reported Medication Adherence Barriers Among Ambulatory Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment

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Study Objective

To compare the frequencies of barriers to medication adherence reported by ambulatory older adults with a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and ambulatory older adults with normal cognition.


Cross-sectional study.


Outpatient clinics within a safety-net health care system.


Ambulatory older adults (≥ 65 yrs) with a diagnosis of MCI (96 participants) or normal cognition (104 participants).

Measurements and Main Results

Self-reported beliefs and barriers to medication nonadherence were assessed by items from the Morisky Medication Adherence Survey, the Adherence Estimator, and barriers derived from a systematic review of studies in older adults with cognitive impairment. Participants with a diagnosis of MCI had a mean age of 72 years, 77% were female, and 37% were African-American. Participants with normal cognition had a mean age of 76 years, 79% were female, and 47% were African-American. Among all participants, 83% reported the presence of at least one barrier to medication adherence, and 62.5% reported two or more barriers to medication adherence. The most commonly reported barriers were difficulty remembering the amount or time of each medication to take (49%), difficulty opening or reading prescription bottles (42%), feeling worse when taking medications (29%), and trouble affording medications (26%). Considering the multiple comparisons made in this analysis, few significant differences in barrier frequencies were identified between the groups with MCI and normal cognition.


Multiple medication adherence barriers were identified among all participants, including cognitive, physical, and financial barriers, although few significant differences were identified between those with and without MCI. Interventions capable of addressing multiple barriers are required to improve medication adherence in older adults with and without MCI.

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