5 Ways to Get Someone with Alzheimer's to Take Medication

As a caregiver, you’re likely to face many challenges throughout the course of your daily life. This is typical and while it can be overwhelming, there are a variety of resources designed to help with these demanding situations. If your aging loved one is living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, then you may need additional advice when it comes to ensuring you’re doing all you can to promote his or her health and safety.


Medication can be a tricky task to tackle. There are a number of reasons why your loved one with Alzheimer’s may refuse medication: confusion, frustration, lack of control which leads to anger or resistance, and fear, just to name a few. The good news is, there are a variety of strategies you can employ in order to ensure medication is properly administered and consumed.

  1. Ensure the environment is calm and quiet: If there are distractions and loud noises, then your loved one may be deterred from the task at hand. Soft, soothing music can help to calm nerves and refocus your loved one. It’s important for you, as the caregiver, to also take a few deep breaths to remain calm. If you’re feeling agitated or flustered, then your loved one may feel your negative energy. Additionally, remove or reduce potential triggers. If multiple medication bottles leads to distress, then only keep one visible at a time. Try to create and maintain a positive environment for all.

  2. Be simple and clear: When possible, you should try to be as direct and succinct in your communications as possible. Providing detailed or lengthy explanations about why the medication is needed or why it’s important can lead to unsuccessful outcomes. It’s important to remember that reasoning with a person living with dementia doesn’t work the way it would with someone of sound mind. Modeling the action of pill-taking may be the best and only prompt your loved one needs.

  3. Make sure pills are easy to ingest: If the pills are large and seem like they may be difficult for your loved one to ingest, then take the time to crush them. It’s not a race; the goal is to make sure that your loved one takes his or her medication. Is there a liquid formula option? Will your loved one have more success taking the pill if it’s mixed with yogurt, applesauce or some other type of food? Communicate and work with your loved one’s physician and pharmacist to come up with a pill format and method that will be most successful.

  4. Stick to a daily routine: As a general rule of thumb, routines are good for people living with dementia. In order to establish a successful routine, you need to identify the right time of day to give your loved one his or her medication. Once you settle on a time, make sure to give your loved one his or her medication in the same place every day. If there is a chair or couch that makes your loved one feel relaxed, then that would be a good option. 

  5. Leverage the power of a reward: We’re all more prone to complete a task that we may not want to normally when the lure of a treat is presented to us. It’s human nature. Whether it’s a small piece of chocolate or extra time doing an activity he or she loves, a reward can not only motivate your loved one to take his or her medication, but can also create a positive association with the medicine.

Have you run into difficulties with your Alzheimer’s loved one taking medication? If so, we know that our community would love to hear your words of wisdom! 

CareZare is a FREE app for family caregivers to help them manage their care team and ensure the highest level of care for their loved one.

Logan Wells