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Helping Elderly Parents Who Don’t Want to Take Their Medications

It’s no secret that as parents age, they tend to get more stubborn. With that stubbornness comes the challenge of trying to get them to take their medicines as prescribed. If they are new medications, your parents might be skeptical, or if they are suffering from dementia, they may be paranoid and suspicious. This can be a challenge if you’re working and cannot take care of them around the clock.

There may be options for help, especially if your parents are EEOICPA and RECA beneficiaries who qualify for free home healthcare services. Other options include adult day care, assisted living facilities, and when the situation warrants, placement in a nursing home.

In the meantime, if you need assistance getting your elderly parents to take their medications, here are some helpful tips.

Ask the Doctor if the Medication Can Be Taken with Food

Some people complain about the taste of a medication as the main reason they don’t want to take it. This can be eliminated if the pill can be masked by something tastier. However, you need to check with the doctor first to verify whether or not the medication can be taken with food. Is there a reason it must be taken on an empty stomach? Is there a way to crush the medication so you can blend it or mix it with food? What about taking it with juice or milk to help mask the taste?

In the event the doctor says you cannot use food, have them place the pill at the very back of their tongue and drink a large glass of water while swallowing it.

Forgetting to Take It

Sometimes the issue is not your parents’ unwillingness to take the medication, it’s that they don’t remember. If the problem of forgetting to take their medications happens regularly, you may need to employ some failsafe measures to fix the problem.  Some ideas include:

  • Pill organizer
  • A medication checklist
  • Event reminder services, like a cell phone alarm or alert
  • Pill dispensers or medication management devices

There is no substitute for responsible caregiving, and you should always be proactive to stay on top of what medications your parents are taking. If the cause of forgetfulness has to do with dementia or Alzheimer’s, then you need to consider alternatives like assisted living facilities or an in-home caregiver.

Try to Keep a Positive Attitude

You need to try and keep your attitude and emotions in check with dealing with your parents and getting them to take their medications. People, even those with dementia, can pick up on tone of voice and body language. If they start to associate taking medication with a negative emotion, it can make them even more resistant to taking their medications. While it’s certainly frustrating, it’s best to put on a brave face and keep a light tone of voice and positive attitude when it’s time to administer medications.

Focus on the Important Medications

If you are struggling to get your parents to take any medication, focus on the most important ones first. If you can’t get them to take pills that will help save their life, you aren’t going to have any luck with supplements or vitamins. Start by addressing the key medications and talk to your parents’ doctors about what medications are absolutely necessary.

Ensure the doctors are aware of what any other medical providers have prescribed, and check whether any of the supplements your parents are taking are ok to combine with the prescription medication. In some cases, supplements can cause drug interactions, so it may help the situation if you can remove some of the pills they need to take.

Check for Side Effects

Talk to your parents and you may find that the reason they aren’t taking the medication is because it’s causing unpleasant side effects. Perhaps they are feeling nauseated or dizzy. Jot down how they are feeling after taking the medication and contact their doctor to see what alternatives there are to switch the medication or methods to reduce the side effects with the existing ones.

Don’t Force It

If you can’t get them to take the medication, don’t force the situation right then. Leave them alone for a bit so you can both calm down and then try again in a little bit. Maybe it’s 15 minutes or another hour, just gauge the situation and try your best to keep it as a positive experience.

Getting Help for Your Elderly Parents

Sometimes you need assistance in taking care of your elderly parents. There are options out there, including adult day care, assisted living facilities, energy workers compensation programs and nursing homes. For EEOICPA and RECA beneficiaries, there may be an option for free home healthcare services as well. Contact United Energy Workers’ Healthcare to learn more on EEOICPA and RECA programs.