Medicine tips for people with disabilities

Having a physical disability, weak hands or difficulties with coordination can make taking your medicines difficult. You may struggle to open packaging or handle containers such as dropper bottles and inhalers. Having low or impaired vision can also make it hard to read medicine labels.

If you find it hard to open packaging or handle dropper bottles and inhalers, or to read labels, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. There may be aids to help you. The following is a guide.

Getting medicines out of foil packs

Try the following if you have problems getting your medicines out of its foil packaging:

  • Ask your pharmacist if they can remove the tablets or capsules from the foil packaging and put them in bottles for you.
  • Try a pill popper device. This is a plastic device that is placed over the pill you want to take. Give it a squeeze and the pill pops out undamaged. 

Opening medicine bottles

Try the the following if you have problems opening some medicine bottles, especially those with childproof lids:

  • Ask your pharmacist to repackage the medicine in a bottle without a childproof lid.
  • Try a pill bottle opener, multi-grip safety cap opener or multi-grip bottle opener.

 

Splitting tablets

If your dose is half a tablet, you can split the tablet into 2 by either breaking the tablet along a scored line, or using a tablet cutter. You can buy a tablet cutter from your pharmacy.

Some tablets are difficult to cut because they don't have a scored line or because of their shape. If you have trouble splitting your tablets, talk to your pharmacist, they can do this for you. 

It’s important to halve tablets correctly because uneven splitting or crumbling, changes the dose.

Difficulties swallowing 

Many people find it difficult to swallow some medicines. This especially affects children and older adults or if you have a medical condition that affects your throat. If you have problems swallowing your medicines, talk to your pharmacist or doctor – there are ways they can help you. Read more about difficulty swallowing medicines.

Reading medicine labels

If you have low vision and have problems reading medicine labels, ask your pharmacist to print larger font on the label, or use a magnifying glass. If you have impaired vision or blindness, there are a number of apps to assist you. These range from connecting you with sighted volunteers to apps that convert text to speech. Read more about apps for people with blindness and low vision.

Using eye drops

Some people have difficulties using eye drops. This can be because of unsteady hands and problems gripping and squeezing small eye drop bottles. Some people have or a blink reaction to the bottle tip nearing your eye, or you miss the eye when using the drops.

Try the following if you have problems using eye drops:

  • Ask someone to help you put them in your eye for you.
  • Use an eye drop dispenser. This device makes squeezing the eye drop bottle easier by providing a better grip. 

Using inhalers

Inhaled medicines are an important part of asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) care. Inhalers come in many different shapes and sizes, and some require more hand strength and coordination than others. If you have problems using your inhaler, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about finding the best one that suits you.

Using a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler makes it easier to use the inhaler and helps to get the medicine into your lungs, where it’s needed (with less medicine ending up in your mouth and throat).

Not all medicines are available in all inhalation devices. You may want to try some devices before choosing the one you're most comfortable with. Read more about inhalers and spacers.

Squeezing creams or ointments from tubes

If you have problems squeezing creams or ointments from tubes, talk to your pharmacist or doctor. Some creams and ointments are available as a lotion, which can be easier to pour out of a bottle.

You can also try using a tube squeezer device. The tube is placed in the device and either a key on the side turned to squeeze out the contents, or the tube is pushed upwards to squeeze out the contents.

References

  1. Helping patients with adherence: dexterity issues Dispensing Doctors Association
  2. Physical ability of people with rheumatoid arthritis and age-sex matched controls to use four commonly prescribed inhaler devices Respiratory Medicine, 2018
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 20 Nov 2020