Top 9 Tips for Persuading a Senior to Take Their Meds

Most seniors understand the importance of taking their medications at the required times and in the stated doses. However, patients with dementia may refuse to take them, either because they’re afraid or confused, and this creates many serious challenges for their caregivers.

To help with this important but difficult process, take a look at these tips for persuading elderly patients to take their meds. 

Set the Scene

Dementia patients may feel confused and frustrated in a noisy environment. Before you hand over the meds, turn off the television, turn down the lights, and play some soft music.

Settle them down, wait until they are calm and relaxed, and then ask them. The more agitated and confused they are, the less likely they are to agree to your requests. 

They may resist if they sense that you’re scared, frustrated, or angry, so wear a smile, stay calm, and ask them nicely. 

Ask for Simpler Medications

In general, medications are prescribed without much consideration for their delivery method, but this is always something that can be changed. The doctor’s first thought is to consider what tablet will work and what dose is best. They may overlook potential issues with jumbo-sized tablets and pills in general.

Many tablets are available in other forms, including liquid and effervescent. Some can also be crushed and added to food or drink. Speak with the patient’s doctor and discuss the options.

Don’t crush the tablets without consulting a doctor first. Some tablets have a protective coating that encourages a slow and gradual release. Once crushed, this layer will be rendered useless and consumption may trigger a dangerous amount of the drug to be released at once.

Be Wary of Side Effects

If the patient experiences adverse reactions after taking the meds, they may associate those feelings with their daily doses and will be wary of consuming their meds in the future. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and more. 

Look out for these symptoms and speak with a healthcare professional if you notice anything concerning.

Regularly Review Their Medications

The more medications they take, the harder your job will be, and the more likely they are to experience side effects. Speak with their doctor, review their medications, and see if there are any changes they can make.

Doctors regularly alter medications—they change the dose, swap pills, and eliminate tablets altogether. It’s all part of the process, and it could help you to remove unnecessary pills from the schedule.

Be Direct and Succinct

Reason rarely works in people who have dementia. Explaining that they need to take the mediations because of “XYZ” won’t accomplish anything. Instead, be direct and concise. Tell them to open their mouth, pop in the pill, and drink a glass of water.

Incentivize Them

Offer a little piece of chocolate or another treat. Place it next to their tablets and tell them that if they take the pills, they can have the treat. If you’re worried about giving them unhealthy foods, the treat can be a puzzle, a game, a book, or even their favorite TV show.

Take “Pills” With Them

Take your medication at the same time as them and they may feel more at ease. That way, you’re announcing that it’s medication time for both of you and you’re going through the same motions.

If you don’t have any pills to take, just pop some Tic Tacs or Skittles.

If You Fail, Don’t Force It

Don’t get angry, as you’ll only make the situation worse and no amount of begging or shouting will get the job done.

Take a break, take some of the above tips in mind, and try again in 10 to 20 minutes. You may find that they are more receptive once a little time has passed.

Make a Note of the Time

If they refuse to take their meds at first but are more open a little later on, make a note of the time. You may find that they are more receptive at specific times of the day, which means you can adjust their medication schedule accordingly.

As long as you’re not leaving huge gaps between their doses or giving them too much too soon, you should be okay. Consult their doctor before making any serious changes to their medication schedule, though.

Helping a Senior to Take Their Pills

Over half of all over-65s take at least four different medications every day, and that number increases with age and with the introduction of conditions like dementia. That’s a lot to consider for the patient and their caregivers. 

In fact, medication problems account for around 15% of all senior hospital admissions every year, so it’s important that they take the right meds at the right times. 

To get help with this, consider purchasing an automatic pill dispenser, which will dispense the right dose at the right time every day. It makes life considerably easier for everyone involved and reduces the risk of serious complications.