How can I get my mother-in-law to take her medicine?

7 answers | Last updated: Nov 22, 2016
Beth asked...

How can I get my mother-in-law to take her medicine? She is in the late stages of Alzheimer's and lately she has been refusing to take her pills. I have tried crushing them up and putting them in her food but she ends up spitting them out because it tastes so bad. Is there anything I can do to make this easier on both of us? I am very concerned that she is not getting all her medication.


Expert Answers

Hi Beth,

I hope you received the help you need. The community member who answered seems to have a great deal of first hand experience. I'm going to add the importance of talking to a pharmacy about this situation, and your mom's doctors. Together they should be able to come up with a plan for making sure your mom takes her meds. This doesn't mean it will be easy. But at least you'll have medical expertise to work with. 


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

First off, I am 39 yrs. old and helped care for my mother for the past 10 yrs., she passed away in July of this year.  I was also pretty much brought up with Alzhiemer's in the home from the time I was almost 5 years old till my grandmother passed away when I was 18 years old.  My mother had taken care of her with some help from myself and my sisters.  So I have had Alzheimer's in my life MOST of my life.  I feel deeply for the families that are in the midst of this disease.  It is a horrible thing to go through.  I wouldn't trade the time I had with my Mom for anything and only wish I could have had even more time. 

As for help giving the meds.  I wish had an easy answer because I know how hard this can be as we went through this with my Mom.  One thing we did was talk to her Drs. and asked them for liquid medicines in anything that could be liquid.  This was a great help at least until she was completely unable to swallow. Of course they make the liquids taste good so we would tell her we had her something really good to drink. Sometimes it worked.  Sometimes it didn't.   Applesauce worked pretty good and yogurt, especially strawberry to mix meds with.  Mom was Diabetic, had high blood pressure, seizures (which sometimes develops with Alzh.), high cholesterol, and of course Alzhiemer's.  All together made for a very difficult time with diet and meds.  If she isn't diabetic you could try mixing her meds with something she really likes and you may have to divide the amount into smaller amounts of meds per bite of good tasting food to try to get it in.  Another thing we did, which by the way was very difficult for us to decide to do, was we made an appointment with her Dr. for a consult visit -this was just us the caregivers without Mom along with us- to discuss discontinuing any medication that could possibly be discontinued without endangering her life. For instance we stopped the Aricept and Namenda which as you probably already know is for Alzheimer's, since she was in the last stages.  We talked with her neurologist and primary care physician and both agreed that if she really was not wanting to take the meds at this point what is the point in making her suffer through that and us too for that matter. We also stopped her cholesterol med, one of her diabetic meds, which in her case by the way did not affect her sugar levels as she had also declined in her eating also.  This is all part of the end stages of Alzheimer's.  It just depends on where she and you are with this and also what kind of meds she takes and what her Dr. says.  Another thing we come to realize, there were times very few but there were times when Mom would be able to say things to us that made since and she would sometimes say things like "I'd rather be dead as be like this" and we knew that she just wanted to go on instead of prolonging a life like this. One day about 2 months before she passed away I had a treasured evening with her, she talked to me like nothing was wrong for about 2 hours which was totally amazing but I felt it was my gift because there were some things that I had wanted to ask her so badly and at this time I knew this was MY TIME from Mom and God.  But she looked at me and this is when I knew this was a time to listen and say what I had wanted to say to her. I had just gotten her to bed one night and she looked at me, not feeling good this night at all and said "I don't know why I have to be like this".  I looked at her and said "I don't either Mama and wish it wasn't like this".  She smiled and our conversation continued from there.  It was such a blessing and I treasure it.  I know patience are hard to come by in this your dealing with but trust me if you can be and please oh please treasure her and each moment you have with her now she needs you so badly and most of all she needs your love, support, hugs and security.  Things are so uncertain in their minds that if we really think about it, it must be such a scary place to be where they are, not knowing pretty much anything at times or all the time that is familiar to them since usually they are living in a time that we don't even know because we weren't even around.  My heart and my prayers go out to you and your Mom. I pray you can make the right decisions for her and that God will give you wisdom in knowing what will work in giving your Mom her meds and anything else you have to do.    Please feel free to contact me if you can and would like.  I don't know where you are but I know at times you need to talk.  By the way the Alzheimer's Association was a great help to us and probably could be to you too.  I just found this site tonight.  I hope this in some way helps you.  Good Luck to you. Sincerely, HJP 


Janet beeching answered...

HJP, you wrote a beautiful letter and tribute to the relationship between you and your mother. It left me speachless. There is nothing else to add to your advice. God Bless you, Janet Beeching, Homestead, Florida.


Bosco2blessed answered...

I understand your frustation @ med time. My Mom is a retired RN; despite the dementia, knows well all the "tricks" to making a person unwilling to take pills take them. Her only health problem at this time (late middle stagish) is the dementia. Having never in her life been on a pill schedule we have been challenged. She is a tea lover and loves it sweet now so we are able to put the pills in her tea at night in a mug that she just "loves" because of the "fancy flowers". Good luck. And as the Lady that has been dealing with AD for soooo long replied, allow God to guide you. That was a very heartfelt testimony and attest to the fact "we get through it" and can offer someone else something positive. It takes some sifting through but there are moments, talks and laughs with my Mom that I feel we would not have had had it not been for AD. I commend you too for taking on the care-giving for your Mother-in-Law. God Bless you.


Hjp answered...

Thank you to the responses given on my comment. I appreciate it and I do hope it helps someone in any way that they may need. God Bless Each of You that is caring for someone, you are to be commended in a greater way than any person on this earth can commend you. My prayers are with you. HUGS TO YOU ALL, as I know there are times as a caregiver you need a hug so desperately, but I tell you, my Mom loved to give hugs, I just wish now I had gotten more of them from her while I could. SO get hugs from your loved one if they like it, it makes them feel good too most likely. HJP


Caterinamaria answered...

Check with your Dr.or pharmacist before crushing meds. in food since some meds have protective coatings etc. When the usual food aides like applesauce, yogurt, jam etc. don't work then there are sprays that the Dr. can prescribe that will make the swallowing easier. When the problem is not ease of swallowing but refusal to take meds it is more difficult. With my 88 year old MIL who is 6th stage Alzheimer, sometimes I have to resort to something as a reward (dessert/sweet/etc.) when she has taken her meds. This reward has to be visible as we sit to take the meds with a prompting sometimes. Thank goodness she loves chocolate.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Try to connect taking the medication with something positive. For example, talk about a warm memory like a family vacation. Make the conversation casual and then give the medication as you are talking. You could try putting the pills whole in applesauce or pudding. If you she refuses, don't argue. Try again in 10-15 minutes with a different approach. Creativity is key when working with Alzheimer's. What works today might not work tomorrow. Good luck! seniormedicationhelp.com