Synapse email updates


What's in an update?

Synapse endeavours to keep you updated with the latest information and news. If you would like to receive our monthly E-newsletter, please fill out your information above and we can keep you in the know!


Get The Facts

Medication non-compliance

Information Services


Medication non-compliance

A relative's refusal to take prescribed medication is a common problem families face after a brain injury.

People who reject medications do so for a variety of reasons. Knowing which reasons will put the family in the best position to respond effectively. 


Denial - I don't need this medication

Sometimes a brain injury can lead to a lack of self-awareness, so a person may deny they need medication and even deny they have acquired a brain injury. It is best to avoid arguments but point regularly and firmly that the medication needs to be taken, why, and the benefits that will follow. The person with the brain injury needs to be fully informed about the benefits and potential side-effects of the medication, as does the entire family. 


Side-effects of medication

Unpleasant side-effects include drowsiness, nausea, weight gain, muscle rigidity and other undesirable symptoms. Some carers keep a day-to-day diary of medication and side-effects, and providing feedback to the doctor is an important function of a carer. Changing the dosage or prescribing another medication can be arranged. In cases of drowsiness, changing the time the medication is taken can help.


Influential friends

Some people with the best intentions give bad advice e.g. a friend may be against all forms of medication and advise trying herbal remedies for severe epilepsy instead of prescribed medications. If a person is refusing to take medications ask for their reasons and see if they have influenced by friends or poorly-researched advice from the internet. 


Manipulation & mind games

As in all families, there can be a clash of wills between two or more people. If the person refuses medication, they know the caregiver will do whatever they can to gain compliance. They may try negotiation or even manipulation to get their way - some negotiation is not a bad thing if handled sensitively and respectfully.


Positive reinforcements such as doing something enjoyable after taking medication are good to keep in mind. It is better to wait until things calm down before pursuing compliance. If the person remains hostile and still refuses medication, it may take another trusted person or health worker to help.


Memory problems & medication

Remembering to take medication can be difficult with memory problems and other cognitive issues. The ideal is to have the person take responsibility for their own medication, so try keeping it next to where the person sits or carries out daily duties. It also helps to schedule it with daily activities such as meals as a reminder.


Sometimes no matter how hard a carer tries or pleads, the person may refuse to take medication. Taking medication is a personal decision. This doesn't mean that the reason for refusing medication is valid or reasonable, and if non-compliance continues with adverse effects professional advice should be sought.



Our partners