Advice and explanations about dementia testing, diagnosis, medical practitioners and medications.

Refusing to Take Medication

Refusing to Take Medication


People with dementia often refuse to take their medication.

Why? Pills can be uncomfortable to swallow;  medications have nasty flavors and after-tastes; and some result in nausea, that your loved one doesn’t want to endure.

But there are  steps you can take to help them with their meds.

First, talk to your charge

Are there situations where the person is more comfortable taking the medication, and others less so – eg, in a particular setting or with the help of a particular person?

Can you tell from the person’s reaction that they dislike the taste, or that the drugs cause unpleasant side effects?

Gather as much information as you can from the patient directly.

Discuss it with the prescribing physician

The prescriber will be able to decide whether or not your charge has the capacity to decide for themselves not to take their medication. If the person does not have capacity, then the prescriber will be able to make a decision about what is in the person’s best interests.

When making this decision, the prescriber should talk to the person’s relatives and carers, and other professionals involved in the person’s care. (If a health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney has been set up, it is up to the attorney to decide what is in the person’s best interests, with the help of the prescriber.)

If it is decided that taking the medication is in the person’s best interests, then this should be done through the least restrictive means available. In some situations, taking the drug prescribed in a different form may be easier than taking a pill. For example, some of the anti-dementia drugs are available as a patch or an oral solution.

As a last resort, it may be necessary to hide the medication in the person’s food or drink. However, this “covert medication” can affect how the medicine is absorbed, and should only be done with the written approval of the person’s GP, consultant or pharmacist.

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