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Helping someone to take their medication

Before helping your friend or relative to take their medicine, you need to make several important checks.

Make sure you’re following the instructions given by your relative or friend’s doctor or pharmacist. They should only take medication that’s been prescribed for them.

The five checks

Your friend or relative is likely to have a care plan, a medicine administration record (known as a MAR) or a prescription chart.

Look at their plan or chart before helping them to take their medicine and follow the five checks:

  1. Name – who is the medicine for?
  2. Medicine – look at the label and refer to the care plan: is it the right medicine and is it in date?
  3. Dose – look at the details on the label carefully: how much?
  4. Time – when did they last take their medicine?
  5. How – how should they take the medicine? Swallowed whole, or dissolved in water? With or without food?

Things that may help

Here are some general suggestions about taking medication.


  • crush it, unless the instructions say to
  • handle it too much


  • wash hands before handling medication
  • wear gloves to apply medicated creams

Getting in position

When you help your relative or friend to take their medication, make sure they’re in the right position. They might need your help to sit up. If they can’t sit up, discuss this with their doctor.

Problems or doubts

If you’re in any doubt about helping the person you’re caring for with their medication, speak with their district nurse, GP or Marie Curie Nurse.

Returning medicine

If you have any leftover medicine, it’s best not to dispose of it yourself. You should leave it in its packaging and return it to your local pharmacist or GP surgery. If there are syringes or needles, put them in a sharps bin if one is available or ask your GP for one if not.

This page is for general information only. It's not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.

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