In this week’s Ask NAMI Keystone PA, we’re talking about what to do when a loved one is refusing medication:
When an adult loved one refuses to take their medicine, it is a very frustrating experience; however, expressing that frustration is not helpful. Some other options involve changing how you communicate. What you say and how you say it can sometimes make a big difference.
One suggestion is to first acknowledge their right to choose to take their medication or not. This will enable you to communicate respect and regard for them as a person first. Ask why they don’t want to take their medicine. It’s important that you are sincere. Show you genuinely care without judgement or a condescending attitude. You may learn that there are some concerning and disruptive side effects with the medication. Maybe your loved one doesn’t like the way the medication makes them feel. It may be possible that the medicine can be changed and the individual hasn’t considered this.
Sometimes individuals refuse to take medication because they don’t believe they need it. It’s unwise to confront this head on. It is unlikely that their resistance to taking medication will be reduced with that approach. Most likely they will dig in and bolster their refusal.
Another option is to speak using “I” messages. For example: “I think you have more energy when you take your meds.” “I thought the last time you were taking your medication regularly you were happier and more focused.” “I would like you to try taking your medicine again.” Comments like these often prompt positive communication, as opposed to: “You don’t have any energy to do anything, you need to take your medicine.” “You aren’t taking your medicine and you can’t pay attention to anything, you are just miserable.” Talking at the person using “You” will be met with a deaf ear and only add to your frustration.
These are just some suggestions to try. Communicating genuine concern when you are very frustrated is hard and it takes practice. “I” messages take practice as well but can often open up the lines of communication.