‘It's a job to be done’. Managing polypharmacy at home: A qualitative interview study exploring the experiences of older people living with frailty

Giorgia Previdoli, David Alldred, Jonathan Silcock, Savi Tyndale-Biscoe, Daniel Okeowo, V-Lin Cheong, Beth Fylan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many older people live with both multiple long-term conditions and frailty; thus, they manage complex medicines regimens and are at heightened risk of the consequences of medicines errors. Research to enhance how people manage medicines has focused on adherence to regimens rather than on the wider skills necessary to safely manage medicines, and the older population living with frailty and managing multiple medicines at home has been under-explored. This study, therefore, examines in depth how older people with mild to moderate frailty manage their polypharmacy regimens at home.

Between June 2021 and February 2022, 32 patients aged 65 years or older with mild or moderate frailty and taking five or more medicines were recruited from 10 medical practices in the North of England, United Kingdom, and the CARE 75+ research cohort. Semi-structured interviews were conducted face to face, by telephone or online. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Five themes were developed: (1) Managing many medicines is a skilled job I didn't apply for; (2) Medicines keep me going, but what happened to my life?; (3) Managing medicines in an unclear system; (4) Support with medicines that makes my work easier; and (5) My medicines are familiar to me—there is nothing else I need (or want) to know.

While navigating fragmented care, patients were expected to fit new medicines routines into their lives and keep on top of their medicines supply. Sometimes, they felt let down by a system that created new obstacles instead of supporting their complex daily work.

Frail older patients, who are at heightened risk of the impact of medicines errors, are expected to perform complex work to safely self-manage multiple medicines at home. Such a workload needs to be acknowledged, and more needs to be done to prepare people in order to avoid harm from medicines.

Patient and Public Involvement
An older person managing multiple medicines at home was a core member of the research team. An advisory group of older patients and family members advised the study and was involved in the first stages of data analysis. This influenced how data were coded and themes shaped.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13952
JournalHealth expectations : an international journal of public participation in health care and health policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2024

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