Refusing to Take Medications

Refusing to Take Medications

The Ask the Expert Column appears in the Palm Beach Post every Tuesday!


My mother has Alzheimer’s disease and is combative in her refusal to take her medications. Help!


14% of female Alzheimer’s patients have aggressive or combative behavioral issues. Going to a support group can provide effective tips and tricks that other Alzheimer’s caregivers have tried and tested.

Keep in mind that many Alzheimer’s patients cannot communicate what the real issue is, so be a detective and follow the clues. If pills are large and your mother has difficulty swallowing (apraxia) she may fear choking, hence the resistance and combativeness.

Assuming you are her health care proxy, here are some suggestions:

  • Discuss the medication schedule with her Doctor to if medications can be given throughout the day.
  • Talk with a Compounding Pharmacy. They can combine several medications to simplify administering them (preparing the medication in skin cream, liquid or other form).
  • Observe first. Take a moment to look at her to gauge how she is feeling and decide if this is the right time to offer medications.
  • Watch your tone. If your tonality sounds harsh, it’s likely your mother will resist.
  • Don’t make it a big production or announce “it’s time to take your meds”.
  • If she resists the first time, don’t force her. Try approaching her again in 5-10 minutes.
  • Be understanding, patient and flexible and most importantly, keep a sense of humor.

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