Ways to Improve Compliance

Getting a loved one with mental illness to actually comply with a treatment program … that’s hard. Here are some suggestions from NAMI, Mental Health America and others on ways to improve your chances of success.

Use the LEAP method.  Listen. Empathize. Agree. Parter. This method developed by Dr. Xavier Amador has a research-tested, proven success rate. You can learn more about it on Dr. Amador’s site here. Following the LEAP method, openly discuss the loved one’s complaints about treatment and medication. Try to “normalize” medication issue with our loved ones.

Encourage injectables as treatment.  When your loved one takes an injectable as treatment, they only have to make the decision to take their medicine once a month. With pills, your loved one will have to make that decision every day or, sometimes, several times a day. With injectable, the doctor knows when they don’t come in for the medicine.  Cost can be a big issue, however. 

Avoid calling the medication a treatment for “your mental illness.”  They may take the medicine more easily if you say the medicine “helps you sleep” or “helps you deal with stress.”

Have a workable plan for monitoring medications if your loved one is not dependable about taking them. If your loved one is living with you, you can monitor the medication. Ill people may be too disorganized to do this themselves. Managing their own medication is a higher level skill for independence. Be the one to call in and/or pick up the prescription, have the pharmacy use your phone number, count pills, etc.

Educate the patient.  If your loved one will agree, help them understand how medications work and why it’s important to take them.

Keep a written record of the medications your loved one has taken, the dosages, the results and the side effects. As caregivers, we are the best “historians” of the illness.  This is important when our loved ones change doctors, nurse practitioners, case managers or social workers.

Get a HIPPA release OR call the psychiatrist to tell them what’s happening.

If your loved one is refusing to take medication,  prepare a crisis plan.  Remember that sometimes a relapse is the way for them to understand that they need help.

Medication Adherence Tips and Tricks (from NAMI)

Here are some tips for making medication adherence easier from NAMI.

  • Take medications at the same time every day.
  • Set an alarm on your cell phone.
  • Pair medications with something you do every day. (drinking your first cup of coffee, brushing your teeth, putting in contacts, etc.)
  • Put medication in a weekly pill box.
  • Enroll in your pharmacy’s automatic refill program. Use your phone number.
  • Have the prescriptions mailed to your house.