How to support adherence to medicines among people with learning disabilities
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

How to support adherence to medicines among people with learning disabilities

Ailish McMeel Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Lynne Marsh Senior lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the importance of education, reasonable adjustments and medication reviews in supporting optimal medicines adherence in people with learning disabilities

  • To enhance your awareness of factors that contribute to suboptimal medicines adherence in people with learning disabilities

  • To acknowledge the importance of involving family or carers in supporting medicines adherence

Rationale and key points

People with learning disabilities often have long-term conditions that require the regular use of medicines. Medicines adherence can be particularly challenging in this population and support with taking medicines is often not provided in a way that meets people’s needs. Suboptimal medicines adherence can negatively affect the health outcomes of people with learning disabilities, which are already poorer than those of the general population.

• Achieving optimal medicines adherence among people with learning disabilities requires a multi-component strategy that includes education, reasonable adjustments and medication reviews.

• Factors that cause and/or contribute to suboptimal medicines adherence among people with learning disabilities include burdensome medicine regimens, medicines prescribed in unsuitable forms, overmedication and overprescribing, lack of medication reviews, lack of reasonable adjustments, suboptimal communication from healthcare professionals and suboptimal care coordination.

• Family and carers are often those who administer medicines, so it is crucial to involve, educate and support them about the person’s medicine regimen so that they can help ensure the medicines are taken as prescribed.

Reflective activity

‘ How to’ articles can help you to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

• How this article might improve your practice when supporting a person with a learning disability to take their medicines as prescribed.

• How you could use this information to educate nursing students or colleagues on the appropriate actions to take to support a person with a learning disability to take their medicines as prescribed.

Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2024.e2229

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

a.mcmeel@qub.ac.uk

Conflict of interest

None declared

McMeel A, Marsh L (2024) How to support adherence to medicines among people with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2024.e2229

Disclaimer

Please note that information provided by Learning Disability Practice is not sufficient to make the reader competent to perform the task. All clinical skills should be formally assessed according to policy and procedures. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 30 January 2024

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