Caregiver’s Question – What do I do if my loved one doesn’t want to take their medication?

Staff Members at Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill

Often, medications put caregivers in a difficult situation. When your loved one takes multiple medications, or large pills, or takes medication several times a day, medication administration can become a chore. If your loved one has dementia they may not remember why they are taking medication and then refuse to take them. When medication time becomes unpleasant or a battle, it is time to ask for help.

The first step is to schedule an appointment with primary care. During this appointment the physician can check if there are physical reasons that medications may be unpleasant, like difficulty swallowing or reflux disease. This is also a good opportunity to review the medication list and see if there are any medications that are no longer necessary. You can also ask the physician about rescheduling medication to target the “best” time of the day or minimize multiple schedules.

If you make changes to the medication regiment and it is still a battle to take pills, you can ask your pharmacist about alternate forms of medications. Some pills can be crushed and placed in food, others cannot. Other medications come as a liquid that can be squirted into the mouth or placed in food. There are a few medications that come in a topical form that can be rubbed on the skin or worn as a patch to avoid oral administration. Please remember to buy a box of medical gloves if you are placing these medications on the skin – otherwise you may accidentally get a dose of medication yourself!

If all else fails, you may have a difficult decision to make. Sometimes the burden of medication may not be worth the benefit. If you believe that it is time to take your loved one off medication, please consult with your physician first. Please do not stop medications without letting your physician know – this can be a dangerous miscommunication. If your physician is not listening to your request, consider switching physicians or consulting with palliative care. Palliative care focuses on comfort and pain relief rather than active treatment of medical problems.

Live Mentally Healthy,
Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill

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