Elderly medicine: Getting Medication Right

Elderly medicine: Getting Medication Right

Medication is one of the trickiest areas to get right, as it is so new to anyone taking on caring responsibilities for an elderly family member or loved one.

At PrimeCarers we’re fully aware of the stressful, and often time demanding, requirements that a caring role can involve. That’s why our goal is to provide all the information that you need to know in as straightforward and accessible a way as possible, so you can concentrate on the things that really matter: caring for the ones you love.

The basics:

Any and all medication should be prescribed or advised on yo your GP. That includes Paracetamol and Ibuprofen as they can react with other prescribed drugs, which in extreme cases leads to death. To help, make sure that the medication is safe and is taken properly by doing the following:

  • Check the name on the medicine container is correct
  • Check the right route for taking (Oral, etc)
  • Check the time of day the medicines are prescribed for
  • Check the medicine container has not been tampered with
  • Check the expiry date
  • Be aware that if someone is taking herbal remedies or other natural remedies as they can have side effects when taking prescribed drugs, mention this to all parties required and discuss with a health practitioner
  • Be aware that some medication can be harmful if mixed with medication for another condition
  • Be aware that medicines can also react with certain foods and ensure you understand all these potential risk factors. Ask your GP and check the instruction book that comes with the medication.
  • Be aware that drinking alcohol while taking medicines can be extremely dangerous

If in doubt seek advice from a medical person or ring NHS 111 or 999.

Also, be aware that some medicines can be harmful to yourself to come into direct contact with. Substances such as methotrexate (a common immune system medicine) can be carcinogenic and should be avoided by pregnant women. Be aware of any potential risks with the substances you may come into contact with. 

Click here to learn more about the risks and how to manage them.

How to ensure your loved ones take their medication:

There are two ways in which medication is delivered, and you will often have a combination of both:

Dosset Box:

Probably the easiest way to deliver medicine on a regular basis, and almost certainly worth investing in, if your GP or Pharmacy hasn’t already. A Dosset box has a number of compartments, usually divided by day of the week, and Morning/Noon/Night, that you can prepare on a weekly basis. You can buy them online or at your local pharmacy, here is a link to a good one from Amazon.


Dispensed out of the packet, this method is often used for medicines requiring special storage condition or those that can be taken as needed.  This is not a great option for regular medication as people can quickly lose track of what they are supposed to be having and when.

Monitoring and reminders:

Firstly, you must make sure that all medications are in-date and in sufficient supply. Be sure to order ahead in plenty of time to avoid missing doses due to unavailability.

Monitoring adherence

Check the Dosset box, and any individually dispensed medications should be done, at least on a weekly basis, to ensure that the right amounts are being taken. For all medication taken, the user, the carer or you should note what has been taken and when. This is so that, in case of an unexpected trip to the hospital, the Paramedics have an up-to-date view of what medications are in their system already. To do that, use a MAR sheet, an example of which you can find below:

Reminding them to take medication:

Stressing the importance of adhering to the prescribed medications schedule doesn’t often work.

If you can’t be present, the simplest way to remind them to take their medication is to give them a ring to make sure they have taken it. 

You can also use an AI assistant, like Alexa, via the Amazon Echo, or similar, to set reminders. See here for more information on how easy that is to do (Not we are not being paid by Amazon).

What can you do if they don’t take their medication deliberately?

If an adult refuses medication, there is nothing you can do about it. However, there are a number of tactics that professional carers use:

  • They involve the person in the medical decision-making process at the GP
  • They remind the person of the importance of taking the drugs, the positives and what will happen if they don’t
  • They used distraction techniques to change the subject and try again later, once the person has had time to think.

Some people crush drugs up and put them in food, however, this is not an acceptable practice and can be classed as abuse. It can be done if they suffer from dysphagia (a condition that restricts their ability to swallow), with the person’s permission and the GP’s guidance.

If you have found this useful or if we have gotten anything wrong, please do let us know. And if you have any questions, please get in touch, by clicking on the chat icon to the right of your screen, or by going to the contact us section