If you are caring for an older person who refuses to take medication, it can be a challenging time. First and foremost, it is important to understand that they are not doing so in order to be difficult or to make your caring role harder, instead it is usually down to how they are feeling and the actual experience of taking the medication. We look at some of the reasons why your elderly care patient may not want to take their medication and give some helpful hints as to how you might approach the task.

Managing Fear

The No Place Like Home report found that dementia is the biggest fear for the older age group in the UK. In some ways, this has been helped by the disease being discussed more openly with high profile people like Terry Pratchett speaking about his own personal experiences. However, there is still a lot of myths that surround the condition and if you’re caring for an elderly patient with dementia who will not take their medication, it can be easy to assume that they are doing it to be challenging or to trick you, when in fact it could be because of how the medication looks, tastes or feels or it could be that it makes them feel unwell (due to side effects) and are unable to communicate this.

Don’t make it the focus

Despite previous failed attempts, medication administration time should not be built up or focused on as this is likely to have an adverse impact on the elderly person, instead try to maintain a peaceful and calm environment. It may be helpful to switch on a favourite TV programme or to turn on calming music. It is also crucial that any anxiety you may have about the task, that you do not let this show.

Give them control

Having medications administered can feel, for some elderly people, like they are losing control and are being rushed into doing something. One way to ease any such concerns is to prepare your care patient for the event by explaining what will happen in small steps and where possible trying to involve them in the task i.e. pouring the water to take the medication or counting out how many. Another way to try and ease the pressure is to take your medication (if relevant) at the same time as your care patient, they are likely to feel less hard done to if they can see it is not just about them.

Advocate for them

According to the live in care hub,(www.liveincarehub.co.uk) live in carers are able to really get to know the person they are caring for as they are the sole person with them for the longest time. This is beneficial because you may observe that the elderly person is more agitated at certain times of the day and if the medication is due to be taken at that point in time, it can exacerbate the situation. The GP and pharmacist can help you with this and advise if the medication can be taken at another time of the day or if the elderly patient is on several medications and find this overwhelming, whether the prescriptions can be separated and taken in intervals.

Find out what the issue is

Taste and texture can be particularly sensitive areas for older people. Your care patient may not like the taste or feel of their medication. This is also another aspect that can be discussed with the patients’ health professionals who may be able to prescribe alternatives that are more suitable such as a liquid instead of a tablet.

If most avenues have been explored, in discussion with health professionals, you may be able to ‘disguise’ medication in food or drink that you know the older person will accept.

It is also worth noting that as the older person’s illness progresses, strategies that you have used previously may no longer work – if this is the case do not worry and try other methods.