“Following the doctor’s orders” — can greatly reduce total healthcare use and costs. But I know my parents are not good about this. When in consultation with their primary care physician, they acknowledge understanding the conversation. They say “yes” when prompted. Upon review of details when arriving home, neither of them can even remember the instructions. Adherence to medication and treatment recommendations is very important, and yet many times the message is lost at the source.

According to the New England Healthcare Institute, the estimated annual costs of patients in the U.S. not taking their medications as prescribed approaches $290 billion. Another research study found that patients who take medications, as directed by doctors, can save the healthcare system as much as $7,800 per patient annually. With more than 40 million older Americans currently enrolled in Medicare, there is potential to save the government as much as $100 billion annually. To do so, caregivers must maintain an active and engaged role in medication management for parents, and clients.

Among boomer caregivers actively assisting seniors with medications, 57% are filling the initial prescriptions; 61% are handling prescription refills; 55% are tracking medications to ensure that doses aren’t missed; 50% are giving pills, injections, or treatments; 50% are buying over-the-counter medications and personal health products for a senior; and only 30% are helping to pay for the prescribed medications.

With physicians on average now spending less than 20 minutes with each patient per visit, and millions of seniors unable or unwilling to properly manage their own health, family caregivers and/or homecare staff play a vital role in driving elderly healthcare outcomes.