Background: Difficulties in administering medicines to older people are common, and medicines are sometimes mixed with food and drink to aid administration. Little is known about this practice or that of covert administration. This study aims to examine the nature, frequency, safety, reasons for and documentation of the administration of medicines in food and drink
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of mainly older adults, who were inpatients at a U.K. tertiary referral centre, was carried out, and nursing staff and consultant psychiatrists were interviewed.
Results: Of the 110 patients, 34 (30.9%) were receiving medication mixed with food or drink, although for only 52.9% was the procedure documented in the patient's care plan and for 64.7% was it documented on the medication chart. No associated safety issues were identified. The main reasons for this practice were swallowing difficulties (61.8%) and refusal to swallow tablets (47.1%). Thirteen out of 110 (11.8%) patients were receiving covert medication, most commonly antipsychotics and anxiolytics or hypnotics. All were detained and lacked capacity to consent. Most had dementia but a few had chronic schizophrenia. For only 46.2% was covert administration documented in the care plan and for 69.2% on the medication chart.
Conclusions: Administration of medication in food or drink and covert medication were common in this group of hospitalized patients with severe mental illness. Before administering medication covertly it is important to discuss the matter with the multidisciplinary team and, where appropriate, with the patient's relatives. It is also important to ensure that supporting documentation has been completed in order to avoid medico-legal difficulties.