What can I do to get my mom to take her diabetes pills, which she doesn't think are keeping her blood sugar in check?

1 answer | Last updated: Jun 22, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom has type 2 diabetes and refuses to take her medications because she doesn't think they work. How can I help her?

Expert Answers

Theresa Garnero is clinical nurse manager of Diabetes Services at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

First, try to find out why your mother has stopped taking her diabetes drugs. Maybe she's recently been diagnosed and is still in denial about her condition or doesn't like the inconvenience of routine pill taking. Or perhaps she experiences uncomfortable side effects, such as severe low blood sugar, from her prescription pills. Or it could be that her medications are no longer doing their job and she may need to increase her dosage, switch to something else, or begin taking insulin.

Whatever the reason, the good news here is that there's likely a solution, but stopping her medications without consulting her primary healthcare provider isn't one of them.

In such a situation, you need to get professional advice. So talk with your mother's main diabetes healthcare provider to find a fix to this common problem. It may be helpful if you or another caregiver go with your mom on her next doctor's visit. You can support her in other ways, too, such as reminding her when she needs to take her medications. But the reality is that no diabetes drug will work if she doesn't take it consistently. Keeping a journal in which she jots down which pills she takes and when will help you figure out if she's taking her medications as prescribed.

You and your mom also need to remember that diabetes is a progressive disease, meaning it will continue to change over time. So it makes sense that the dose and types of drugs she needs will change over time as well. Change can be tough for anyone, in particular the elderly, but remind your mom that long-term complications from diabetes are a greater challenge. Persuade your mother to first talk it over with you and her healthcare provider any time she wants to stop taking a medication.

One surefire way to see if her medications are doing what they're supposed to is by routine blood sugar testing. If your mom checks regularly, and her numbers are in the recommended range, then her medications are more than likely working and she can relax.