Managing Medications: When You Don’t Want Medicine

How to Get Yourself or Someone Else to Take Their Medicines

One of the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) that a senior adult may need assistance for, is the management of their medication. A senior might need to take several types of medications and supplements. Since each person wants to stay in the peak of health, they usually do their best to remember to take the medicine, in the way prescribed. This is an important point in senior safety.

Most people respond positively to ideas that help them to take their medicine in the correct dose, at the right time.

However, sometimes the obligation to take a medication does not sit well with a person and for some reason they don’t want to take their medicine. This is primarily a situation of potential danger for the patient themselves, and secondarily, a situation which can cause considerable pain and anguish to the family and carers of the person who refuses to take the medication they need.

Why doesn’t he/she want to take the medicine?

  • Reconsider, perhaps the medicine is indeed not-needed, so the body/mind is resisting.
  • Fear of choking.
  • Concern about known side affects.
  • Frightened about unknown side-affects.
  • They think they are healthy and don’t think they need the medicine.
  • The person feels too poorly to take the medicine.
  • He/she feels they are taking too many medicines.
  • They do not understand why they need to take the medicine and how it will help them.
  • He/she does not appreciate the severity of the outcome if they do not take the medicine.
  • The reaction of the surrounding family is influencing the person.

Potential Medical Solutions

Ask if the medication comes in a different form.

Here is a list of different forms that medication can come in listed in Potters House  plus a few other ideas. Of course, not all types of medication can be provided in all forms:

pills, caplets, capsules, add-water powder, injection, in liquid form such as a syrup or drops, a lip balm, edible candies, edible drops, edible sprays, creams, suppositories.


Ask if any medicines can be combined into a single type of medicine

This might be a solution to taking voluminous numbers of pills.


Crush tablets, open capsules and mix the powder with food or drink.

Check with the pharmacist first, it is not always safe to use this method.


Discuss the situation with the doctor and the pharmacist

Based on their broad medical knowledge, they might have a solution you never thought of. A doctor might know which medications can be dropped for a period of time, or switched. Being open is the best option in the case of senior safety. Lying to a doctor, saying that they are taking the medicine, when the opposite is true might end up complicating matters in the end.


How can an Individual, Their Family or Carers get around the Barriers?

  • Promise the person, a treat or reward for taking the medication as required.
  • Perhaps the person prefers to sit together while they take their medicine, or the opposite.
  • Praying. Maybe there will be a heaven-sent solution or the person will gain confidence.
  • Arrange therapy to help find the deeper problem stopping him/her from taking needed medicine.
  • Get a second opinion regarding taking the medication. Maybe there is a completely different approach you can investigate.
  • Set forth how important it is to take the medicine and how it will help them so much.
  • Explain how sometimes it takes time to see results but if they continue taking the medicine they will feel better.
  • Store oral medication in the fridge to diminish the taste, if the pharmacist approves.
  • Tell them you will be together with them (emotionally) in the ‘project’ of working out tricks and solutions to make the situation more palatable.
  • Talk it out – let the person speak about what is on their minds, being open will lead to a better understanding.

A patient has a right to refuse treatment, but that is not the subject of this article.

Knowledge is believed to be power. In this case, it is more than that, when a person has knowledge about why they are taking medicine and what might or might not happen, they know what type of help to ask for. In this case, knowledge will help vanquish the fears and reach a solution. The patient and the family or care giver must be involved if necessary in this matter which relates to senior safety

senior safety take your medicine as prescribed!

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash