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Strange Behaviour Helps Seniors Remember Medication
Remembering to take daily
medications can be a challenge;
© Janet Gumpert
Doing something unusual while taking a dose of medicine may be an effective strategy to help seniors remember whether they have already taken their pills.
We've all heard warnings that some medications may be habit-forming, but research also shows that "getting into the habit" of taking a daily medicine in a routine and precise fashion can be a befuddling challenge for some older adults, many of whom tend to err on the side of over-medication, taking a dangerous second dose when in doubt about the first.
"In extended medication-taking situations, the habitual nature of the task may make it difficult for older adults to remember whether or not they took the medication on a particular day, especially if pill boxes are not used," explains Mark McDaniel, lead author of the study and a professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.
"To remedy this potential problem, older adults could be instructed to take their medication while placing one hand on their head or in some other unusual or silly way, like crossing their arms," he suggests. "Our results indicate that older adults can use these sorts of more complex motor tasks to effectively reduce repetition errors in habitual prospective memory tasks, such as taking a daily medication."
Specifically, participants were asked to push the F1 key on a computer keyboard once at some point at least 30 seconds into a series of relatively simple, three-minute-long, letter-recognition tasks, such as pushing the computer key for the letter that comes next in the alphabet after a letter being displayed on the monitor (see a "g" and push an "h"). One subset of the older study participants was instructed to put a hand on their heads whenever they pushed the F1 key.
The performance of older adults averaging 72 years of age was compared with results from a group of college students put through the same trials.
"When ongoing task demands were challenging, older adults committed more repetition errors than younger adults, regardless of whether they'd been told in advance to err on the side of omission – told not to push the F1 key if they had any doubt about whether it had already been pushed once in the same trial," says McDaniel.
However, older adults asked to carry out the more complex motor task (placing hand on head) while pushing the F1 key made significantly less repetition errors than older adults not making use of this memory enhancing technique.
REHACARE.de; Source: Washington University in St. Louis
- More about the Washington University in St. Louis at www.wustl.edu
( Source: REHACARE.de )