Hiding medicine

Is it OK to hide someone's medication in their food or drink?

Living with dementia magazine's 'Ask an expert' column looks at questions that need to be addressed before concealing medication in the food or drink of someone with dementia.

Cup of cocoa

‘My husband has started spitting out his blood pressure tablet, so I crush it and slip it into his cocoa without his knowing. Is this OK?’

If someone isn’t taking medication that they need to keep well, concealing it in their food or drink can seem an easy solution. However, this raises some questions that are important to deal with.

Why is it happening?

Is your husband refusing to take these tablets because they are difficult to swallow? Has he been put off by an unpleasant taste or side effect? If he has taken them before without difficulty, could there be another reason behind him spitting them out now?  Sometimes you can work out what is going on by talking to the person about it.

There may be situations where he is more comfortable taking the pills than others. This might be as simple as when he is sitting in a familiar chair, or if a particular person is there.

You can ask the GP whether this medication comes in a liquid or another form that is easier to swallow. Sometimes another brand of pill can taste different while being just as effective.

Is it their choice?

Disguising medicine means that the person believes they are not taking it when in fact they are. We all have the right to consent to medication – if someone doesn’t know they are receiving it, they can’t have given informed consent.

Your husband may or may not be able to decide for himself whether to take these tablets. If he can decide, then it is his choice to make. If he can’t make this decision himself, even with your or others’ support, then a decision may be made on his behalf if it is in his best interests. You should get advice from a health professional about this.

If taking the medicine is the best thing for your husband, find a way to give it to him that affects his rights in the smallest way possible, and try to ensure that this is recorded in his care plan. Talk to the GP, or whoever prescribed it, and anyone else involved in caring for him. If there is no other way, then hiding it in his food or drink could be the solution.

Will it affect the medicine?

Hiding medicine in food or drink – or even simply crushing a tablet – may affect how your husband’s body absorbs it, and so how effective it is. This is another reason why you should check with a health professional before doing this.

Next steps

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