Medication Pathway

Section E When medication is being started

What to do if your relative refuses to take the medication

Sometimes people with learning disabilities, autism or both might dislike the taste or texture of medication they are given. They might notice how they feel after taking the tablets or liquid medicine and be wary of it. If they spit it out or refuse to swallow it, then it may not be safe to make them take it.

If your relative has the capacity to decide not to take their medication (i.e. they understand what the medication is for, and the implications of not taking it), then their choice should be respected (although they should be supported to follow medical advice).

If your relative lacks the capacity to decide, there should already have been a best interest meeting which has concluded that it is in their best interests to be given the medication – see Section D. If they are not taking it, those involved in their care should discuss how best to enable them to take the medication. Some ideas to consider are:

  • Communication about the medication, such as using a visual story to encourage and reassure them;
  • Trying a different form – e.g. liquid; and
  • Putting the medication in food or drink. However, be very careful with this approach as there is a risk they will then refuse that food or drink afterwards, or be distrustful of all food and drink given to them.

NB: There may need to be a best interest meeting to decide whether giving the medication in a new way is still the least restrictive option for them, or if it may be in their best interests to stop taking the medication.