I am my father’s oldest daughter and his primary caregiver. He’s been in and out of the hospital this year for a variety of health concerns. So far, we’ve been able to help him complete a rehabilitation program and return to living alone in his own home.
A hurdle I can’t seem to get past with caring for my father is his resistance to taking his medications. He just won’t comply. The last time he ended up in the emergency room, his doctor gave us a very stern warning that failing to take his medications as prescribed will have dangerous consequences.
Do you have any suggestions for how we can convince Dad to take his medicine?
Reminder to Take Medication: How to Handle Resistance
Such a great question! And it’s one we hear often from families. While it might be tempting to leap to the conclusion that a senior is just being difficult, there is usually more to it than that.
Allow me to show you a few of the common reasons why older adults resist taking medications:
Confusion and forgetfulness: Is your father a little forgetful? Does he get confused? It might be as simple as setting up medication reminders or utilizing an electronic pill dispenser that sounds an alert to keep him on track. You might also want to consider hiring a professional caregiver who can provide your dad with an in-person reminder to take his medication.
Side effects: Do the medications cause side effects you aren’t aware of? For example, your father might be too embarrassed to tell his daughter that his medication gives him chronic diarrhea or he might be afraid he will have to give up driving if he takes a medication that makes him dizzy. Try to have an open and honest discussion with your father to see if troublesome side effects might be the issue. If his physician is aware of the problem, he might be able to adjust the dosage or substitute the medication with another one.
Financial concerns: Do not overlook the fact that your father might be overwhelmed with the costs associated with his prescriptions. If one isn’t covered by his Medicare or insurance, the cost might be prohibitive. Even the co-pays can quickly add up for seniors who take a variety of medications. Older adults have been known to take much-needed prescriptions at far lower doses than their physician ordered in an attempt to make the medication last longer. If you talk to your father and find out this is the issue, talk with his physician. They might know of programs with the pharmaceutical company to help. The local agency on aging might also have resources available.
Difficulty swallowing: Another reason seniors resist taking medication is a fear of choking. Some health conditions, such as a previous stroke or dental problems, can make it more difficult for a senior to swallow. The condition is known as dysphagia. Before you encourage your loved one to crush up a medication or open a capsule to pour the contents in to their water though, talk with the pharmacist. Some medications, especially those with a time release component, shouldn’t be altered.
I hope you are able to use this list to discover what might be the reason behind your father’s resistance to taking his medication.
Thanks for writing to us for advice!