Like us onFollow Us on Caregiver Blog
Getting someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia to take their medicine can be a constant challenge for many caregivers.
It is very common to hear from caregivers about the challenges of giving medications to someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. “When I give my mom her medications, she gets angry,” is an often heard statement. What is the best way to deal with this challenge so that medications are taken on a consistent basis?
When confronted by this situation, or by any challenging behavior, it is important to remember that the behaviors of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias that are commonly viewed as problems are actually attempts to communicate. Try to look at the situation from their perspective. Doing so is helpful in bringing the challenging behavior into focus and finding a solution.
Refusing to take medication could be a response to being confused or feeling afraid of what they’re being asked to do.
Your older adult might also feel like they don’t have any control over their life, which could make them generally angry or resistant.
Create a calm and quiet environment
- When it’s time for medication, start with a calm environment.
- Make sure there aren’t any loud sounds like TV or commotion like lots of people around. You could also try playing soft, soothing music.
- Before you start, take some deep breaths and do your best to stay calm throughout the process. If you’re agitated, frustrated, or angry, they’ll be able to sense it and will also become agitated and less likely to cooperate.
Be alert to side effects or illness that make them feel sick or uncomfortable
- Someone might refuse to take their medicine if it makes them feel sick, uncomfortable, or if they have an illness.
- Many medications cause unpleasant side effects like nausea, stomach aches, agitation, or dizziness and your older adult might not be able to tell you that there’s a problem. If you suspect this could be the issue, speak to the doctor about how to improve the situation.
- They could also have something else going on like dental problems that make their gums or teeth hurt, poorly fitting dentures, a urinary tract infection, a cold or flu, or a sore throat.
Eliminate medications or supplements that aren’t absolutely necessary
- Many seniors take multiple medications. Sometimes doctors forget to review medications to see if they’re still needed.
- The last thing you need is to try to get your older adult to take more pills than absolutely necessary.
- Speak with their doctor to see if any medications are no longer needed and could be safely discontinued.
- Fewer pills = less hassle over taking medicine.
Make pills easier to take
- Some pills could be too large and hard to swallow.
- Talk with your older adult’s doctor or pharmacist to see if any of their medications could be changed to a liquid formula or if you could crush the pills and add them to applesauce, yogurt, or food.
- Make sure to ask before crushing any pills because not all pills are crushable. Some can become less effective or even unsafe.
Use short sentences and don’t explain or reason
- Don’t get into a conversation about why they need the medication or explain why it’s important that they need to take their pills.
- Reasoning with someone with dementia simply doesn’t work. Instead, use short, direct sentences to help them accomplish the goal.
- For example, you could just hand them the pill, demonstrate what you want them to do by putting a pretend pill in your own mouth, and wait patiently for them to put their own pill into their mouth, then say “Big drink of water.”
Look for things that trigger distress
- Sometimes other things about taking medication can upset someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- For example, they could feel distressed when they see a lot of pill bottles. In that situation, you could keep their medication bottles out of sight and only bring out the pills they need to take at that moment.
- Similarly, if seeing all the pills they need to take makes them anxious, you could give them only one pill at a time and keep the rest out of sight.
Be their medication buddy
- Taking your own medicine at the same time they do can make it more of a buddy experience. You might say, “It’s time for our medicine. Here’s mine and here’s yours.”
- If you don’t take any medications, see if you can get away with “taking” a harmless food item like an M&M, Skittles, TicTac, or jelly beans.
Don’t force it, try again in 10-15 minutes
- Sometimes there’s nothing you can say or do to get your older adult to take their medication.
- If that happens, don’t try to force it. Leave them alone for a bit so you can both calm down. In 15 minutes (or so), give it another try
Find the right time of day
- People with dementia often have good and bad times of day. Trying to give medicine during one of their bad times isn’t likely to work.
- For example, if your older adult typically gets sundowning symptoms, avoid giving medication in the late afternoon or evening unless the doctor absolutely requires it for an important medical reason.
- Think about the times of day when they’re in the best moods and adjust their medication schedule to meet those times.
- Of course, before making any changes to their medication schedule, talk with their doctor to make sure the new schedule you’d like to use is safe and won’t cause any problems.
Stick to a daily routine
- A daily routine can do wonders for someone with dementia. With a regular schedule for taking medication, your older adult will get used to it and become more cooperative.
- Give them their pills at the same time every day. Do it in the same place, like when they’re relaxing in their favorite chair, and use the same cup for water.
- For some people, making medication part of their after-meal routine works well because they’re still in “eating mode.”
Offer a treat
- Young or old, we all love treats. You might consider offering a treat as a reward for taking their medication.
- For example, put a small piece of chocolate in front of your older adult and say that it’s their treat after they finish their pills.
- It might even help take away any bitter taste the medicine leaves and associates something positive with taking medicine.
THE CAREGIVER ROLE
What is a Caregiver
The Caregiver Defined
Who Do Caregivers Care For
Accepting the Reality of Dementia
6 Steps to Successful Caregiving
Caregiver's Are Not Alone
Asking For & Getting Help
The Caregiver Code
Rights of a Caregiver
Unmet Needs Of A Caregiver
Caregiver And Work
Feelings And Caregiver Stress
Questions & Answers
STRESS, COPING & FEELINGS
The Caregiver Code
Rights of The Caregiver
Coping With Stress
Feelings And Caregiver Stress
Stages Of Alzheimer's
Helping Children Understand
Protecting Yourself From Burnout
Making Time For Reflection
How is Competency Defined?
Power of Attorney
What is an Advanced Directive?
Do I Really Need a Will or a Trust?
Importance of Communication
Communicating With Someone Who Has Alzheimer's
Your Approach Sets The Tone
Think Before You Speak
Doing Tasks Together
Having Trouble Being Understood
Keeping a Dementia Journal
Making Caregiving Easier - Caregiver Notebook
Things NOT To Do
When It Just Fails
TIPS AND ISSUES
New To Family Caregiving?
Tips For Dealing with Aggression
Places To Turn For Caregiver Supoort
Take Advantage of Community Support
Random Tips From Other Caregivers
Providing Long Distance Care
When To Stop Driving
Dealing With Family Conflict
Tips on Sundowning
Ways to Reduce Sundowning Challenges (part A)
Ways to Reduce Sundowning Challenges (part B)
Helping Children Understand
Pet & Toy Therapy
Getting Someone to Take Medications
Tips For Medical Appointments
Dealing With Resistance
Tips For Day To Day
Intimacy And Sexuality
Visiting A Person With Dementia
Music And Dementia
Tips For Holidays And Gatherings
Art as Home Therapy
RESEARCH & DONATIONS