When seniors struggle to swallow their pills or refuse to take medicine at all, it’s sometimes necessary to get creative. In geriatric medicine, masking medication may be justified—especially for caregivers dealing with dementia.

We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips for ensuring a senior adheres to their medication regimen by putting pills in food or drinks. This can be a viable option for elders who refuse to take their medicine as well as for those who have developed difficulty swallowing (a condition known as dysphagia). While “hiding” medication in food or drink is controversial, sometimes it is the only method that can be used to ensure a senior takes their medicine as prescribed.

Be sure to consult a loved one’s prescribing physician or pharmacist before trying any of the following techniques. Prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and other dietary supplements can interact with each other and with certain kinds of food and beverages. Medical professionals have the expertise and resources to suggest other safe and reliable methods for helping a senior take their medications as directed. To look up a specific medication’s FDA label information (also known as a package insert), use the DailyMed database provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

How to Hide Pills in Food or Drink

“Try crushing pills for elderly loved ones and mixing them with something sweet like jelly. That’s the technique I use with Mom. It’s mostly successful.” –Bayou52

“There is a fine line between crushing medications and putting them in food to make it easier for a patient to swallow them and hiding them in food so the patient is fooled into taking them. When someone refuses to eat, drink and take meds, it’s important to consider a senior’s health status, life expectancy and quality of life when deciding what to do about it. For example, if they have been considered appropriate for hospice care, there is little point in worrying about administering routine medication. Of course, medication for pain and anxiety should be continued, though.” –Veronica91

“My mom used to refuse to take her pills while in the hospital because they were putting her crushed meds in applesauce. Mom just didn’t like the taste of applesauce. I told the nurse that Mom liked chocolate, so the nurse got a very small serving of chocolate ice cream and put the crushed pill in there. Mom loved it.” –freqflyer

“Crush the medication up in milk, coffee or whatever your loved one likes to drink, and then give it to them. Just be aware that mixing certain types of antibiotic pills and milk products may interfere with absorption.” –ferris1

“I suggest crushing medications and putting them in food, but not all medicines can be crushed or broken. Some drugs come in extended-release dosages that feature coatings or ingredients that make them dissolve slowly over time. Check with your pharmacist first!” –lifeexperiences

“We sometimes forget our elders find it difficult to swallow tablets, especially since some medications are quite big. Crush the medication and give it to your loved one with their drink. I did this for my mother after I checked with our pharmacist, who said it would be perfectly OK.” –Johnjoe

“I crush my mom’s medications and mix them with vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. A small sundae before breakfast and one after dinner means no more fights about taking meds.” –Mellie1951

“I always smashed up Mother’s medicine and then put it in a small bit of applesauce. My mother couldn’t swallow pills. She had her mind, but she would have never taken her medicine if I didn’t give it to her every time.” –luckylu

“I remember when I was little my mom gave us our pills with jam. You could try that.” –Gershun

“Get a pill crusher and try mixing medicine with applesauce or any other soft food your loved one will eat. It may seem kind of odd to put pills in applesauce at first if you’re not used to it. I tried this when I had to figure out how to hide the bitter taste of an antibiotic I was taking. It tasted awful when taken with water. Instead of crushing it, I hid the whole pill in a spoonful of applesauce or even barbecue sauce. It worked. Any soft food will do as long as the senior will eat it. Another thing you can do if you have a blender is make the patient a small fruit smoothie or a milkshake. Just drop the pill in the mix and let the blender do the rest. Another thing I thought of is possibly putting the pill down into a glass of soda and letting the pop dissolve it for you.” –Dontask4handout

“I used to buy my mom Ensure pudding in chocolate, vanilla or strawberry flavors. Unfortunately, I had to buy it online because no local store was selling it. I would crush her pills up and put them in there.” –Lizdevine


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“Yogurt with fruit in it worked well for us. I think it helped that it was not completely smooth and was already lumpy. The texture hid her medication well. My mom would spit medication-laden applesauce and pudding back out before I could even get the next spoonful ready.” –Rosebush

“Many medications don’t actually need to be crushed—it’s a misconception. If they are given with a soft food, such as pudding or yogurt, the pills will slide down the esophagus just fine. Only when pills are huge do they need to be crushed. Even then, if they are cut up into small enough pieces, they can be swallowed with soft food. Crushing many medications makes them impossible to swallow because they are too bitter.” –TooYoungForThis

“Dementia expert Teepa Snow recommends using jam. It is very sweet, and a not-quite-smooth texture can hide pills better than blended products like applesauce or puddings.” –cwillie

“Do not crush any oral medication that is labeled as:

  • Delayed release
  • Enteric-coated (EC)
  • Extended release
  • Effervescent tablet (EVT)
  • Mucous membrane irritant (MMI)
  • Orally disintegrating tablets (ODT)
  • Slow-release (SR)
  • Sublingual forms of drugs
  • Sustained-release

Do not crush any oral medication that ends in the following letters:

  • CD
  • CR
  • ER
  • LA
  • SR
  • XL
  • XR
  • XT”

–NYDaughterInLaw

“My dad started questioning what his pills were and it became a battle. I got creative and solved the problem. He’s been taking necessary medications for a few years without knowing, either in a milkshake or hidden in peanut butter in a sandwich. No more battle!” –LoriMb

“What worked best when my husband needed his pills crushed to swallow them was dissolving them in a very small amount of grape soda. That seemed to overpower the taste of the pills best and the carbonation helped dissolve them. The small amount let him get it over with quickly. Then he had a chaser of just plain pop. This was for helping him swallow them. He was willing, understood what I was doing and experimented with me using several different approaches. This was not to hide them; that is a different issue.” –jeannegibbs