3 Steps to Take if Your Aging Parent Isn’t Taking Their Pills

February 22, 2021

Your elderly parent isn’t taking their medications. You’re worried. You’ve tried to talk to them about it, but they either ignore you or become irritated with you for being bossy.

It’s become a sore point in your relationship. You don’t like harping on at them, but you know it’s only a matter of time before their health takes a nosedive. Depending on the pills they’ve been prescribed, they could end up having a stroke or heart attack. It’s not something you can just let slide and hope for the best.

Consider possible reasons they may not be taking their medications

It’s easy to conclude they’re just being stubborn. But turning this into a war of wills is going to get you nowhere.

So, take a step back. Consider why they might not be taking their meds.

Here are some possible reasons:

  • They’ve had a bad experience with side effects
  • The pills are hard to swallow
  • They feel fine, so they don’t see why the pills are necessary
  • They don’t understand why they have to take them, so why bother?
  • They’ve got far too many pills to take
  • They know someone on the drug who had a stroke
  • They simply forget to take them

And here are 3 steps you can take to address several of these issues.

1. Make a medication list

It’s quite possible that your parent is being seen by multiple doctors for different health issues. If your parent is seeing several specialists, their medication list can get quite long. Some seniors may end up taking ten medications or more.

It’s easy to lose track. That’s why it’s important to maintain an up-to-date list of your parent’s medications (including strengths and dosages). That includes non-prescription drugs. Your parent will probably be asked to provide such a list if they undergo any sort of medical procedure. It’s also a good idea for them to have it on hand whenever they visit any of their doctors.

Another tip: Your parent should shop at one pharmacy for their medications. That way, there will be a centralized record of all their prescriptions.

2. Have their medications reviewed

Each specialist following your parent may have prescribed different drugs for different problems. They may not always consider how the drugs they prescribe interact with other medications your parent is taking. This can cause unintended health problems.

One solution is to have a single physician review all the medications your parent is taking with a view to identifying drugs that aren’t compatible and those that can be replaced or discontinued. A geriatrician is probably the best physician to do this sort of review. If one isn’t available, your parent’s family physician may be able to help, particularly if they involve a pharmacist.  

This will also be an opportunity for your parent to have any concerns (or misconceptions) they have about particular medications addressed.

The intended outcome? A more manageable list of medications and less chance of problematic drug interactions or side effects. Plus, a better chance your parent will take their pills as prescribed.  

3. Make it easier for them to take their meds

Even if your parent’s medication list is pared down, they still may have a lot of pills to take. A dosette box can help them keep their pills organized. Or their pharmacy can be asked to dispense all their medications together in a sheet of blister packs. This saves your parent from having to sort their pills into the compartments of a dosette box each day or week.

But if your parent has dementia, it’s possible that dosettes or blister packs won’t be enough to prompt them. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider a move to a retirement home that will look after dispensing and managing their medications.

Weekly pill container
Keep it organized and simple

Locating a retirement home

Perhaps you’re beginning to think that a retirement home might be the answer. But you don’t know how to bring it up with your parent. Nor are you entirely sure what services and amenities retirement homes provide.

That’s where we come in. Every day, our skilled counsellors help people navigate these sensitive discussions with their aging parents. We know retirement communities in the Ottawa area inside and out and can find one that fits your parent’s needs, desires, and budget. Plus, we save you stress. And time. (On average, we save families 80 hours searching for a suitable retirement community.) Contact us.

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