What should I do if the patient is reluctant to see the doctor or take medications?

Some patients may refuse to see the doctor or take medications due to reasons such as thinking that they are not sick, fear of being labelled if other people found out about their condition, or concern about the side effects of medications etc. However, it is really important for the patient to seek medical help as soon as possible, and take medications as instructed. If a patient can seek help early on, they would not need to take as much medications, it is less likely for complications to occur, and that the outcome of their recovery would be more ideal. If the patient does not take medications as instructed, it may increase the risk of relapse. 

Therefore, with a supportive and respecting attitude, family members can try to figure out the reason why the patient is unwilling to go see the doctor/go to their doctor appointments, and their opinions and feelings on medications. If needed, family members may accompany the patient to their doctor appointments; or to seek help from doctors or social workers with them, so that there are chances to clarify any misunderstandings, and could work out a solution together. 

Sometimes, the patient is reluctant to go to the doctor because they don’t think that they are sick. Family members can try to encourage the patient to seek help by using reasons that are less stigmatising, such as the patient’s lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, or weight loss etc. Family members may also consider seeking help from social workers after a period of time of persuading. 

If the patient is unwilling to take medications, family members can try to discuss the medications with regard to the patient’s opinions (i.e. medication alleviates insomnia), and not necessarily make the patient agrees that they are ill. It may also be helpful to let people who are more influential to the patient to remind them about taking medications. If the patient refuses to take medications due to the side effects, family members may ask the patient if they could join their next doctor appointment so that they could explain the side effects to the doctor. Family members can also show appreciation towards the patient’s compliance to medication-taking instructions verbally.

Tips for Caregivers: Encouraging them to take medications as instructed

• Fight side effects with care
  (Family members should show that they care about the patient’s experiences with the meds’ side effects)

• Learn about medications together 
  (Family members and patient should learn more about psychiatric drugs together)

• Explain consequences patiently 
  (Explain patiently the consequences of not taking meds on time)

• Treat medications with a calm attitude 
  (Encourage the patient to see taking meds as a part of their daily routine)

• Memorise by simplifying instructions
  (Encourage the patient to take meds at fixed times, i.e. after every meal, in order to decrease the chance of them forgetting their meds)

• Remind patient to take medications 
  (Family members should remind the patient to take meds on time, but try to avoid stressing them out)

• Change of medication amount is no big deal 
  (Encourage the patient to handle the doctor’s suggestions for increasing the amount of meds calmly)

• Don’t deceive patient into taking medications 
  (Family members should not deceive the patient into taking meds, i.e. mixing them into meals, as it may be counterproductive)