Supporting people in care homes to take their own medicines

It is important for the independence of people living in care homes that they are involved as much as possible in taking their medicines. People working in health and social care (practitioners) should carry out an assessment to find out how much support a person needs to take their own medicines. The assessment should involve the person who is living in the care home, care home staff and, if the person wishes, their family members or carers. The person's GP or a pharmacist may also be involved. The assessment should include:

  • discussing what the person would like

  • checking whether there will be a risk to the person (or others) if they are responsible for taking their own medicines

  • checking how able the person is to take their own medicines

  • determining how the medicines will be stored (this is usually in a lockable cupboard or drawer in the person's room).

Sometimes support will involve doing things like pharmacists and GPs supplying medicines in packages that make them easier to use (for example, by putting medicines for each time of day and each day of the week in a separate compartment in a box). This can help people have more control of their medicines. Pharmacists and GPs who supply medicines to care homes should make sure that all their staff follow an agreed process for checking that this has been done properly.

A person who is taking medicines that need special storage should be able to get to their medicines when they need them.

When a person is taking controlled drugs and is responsible for their own medicines, the care home should have a process that clearly sets out how this should be done, including what the staff should do when they are given drugs the person no longer needs and how they should get rid of them.