How To Help Elderly Swallow Pills

Some elderly individuals have difficulty swallowing medication, but following medical advice and treatment is an important way to manage chronic diseases and treat acute illnesses. These are some of the common medication aids and strategies that can help to take pills if you can’t swallow them:

  1. Liquid flow assist device

Stop fighting to swallow pills and let the water do the work by simply drinking the pills down. Insert the pill, tablet or capsule into a holding slot and tilt the cup or bottle towards your mouth as you swallow the liquid and pill in one smooth motion.

There are three common types of liquid flow assist devices to help with swallowing pills:

  • Pill Taker’s Cup – pills are held on a shelf that allows liquid through when tipped, which carries the pill into the mouth to drink it down
  • Oralflo Pill Swallowing Cup – reduces gagging and anxiety with swallowing pills by suspending the medication in liquid before it enters the mouth
  • Medi-Spout Pill Assist Cap – cap that fits on most plastic water bottles that helps water flow through to bring the pill into the mouth for more easy swallowing

  1. Pill crushing

Administering drugs to patients with swallowing difficulties can sometimes be done more easily by crushing medication into a powder form and including it with an applesauce or yogurt snack. 

Not all medications can be crushed, so any swallowing problems should be discussed with the prescribing physician and pharmacist as an alternative treatment may need to be considered.

If medications are allowed to be given in crushed form with a meal, pill and drug crushers should be utilized as they ensure a fine powder with no chunks is produced for easy swallowing.


  1. Pill swallowing gel

Gel lubricates the mouth and throat to reduce bad taste, choking and gagging with swallowing pills, capsules and tablets.

This gel has a moderately thick consistency like honey, with a pleasant vanilla taste to help mask any bad tasting medication and facilitate taking the medication in.


Simply place the tablet or capsule onto a spoon and cover it with enough gel before swallowing it with water.

  1. Pill glide spray

Just coat the tongue and throat with a few squirts of the sugar free pill glide before putting the tablet in the mouth to more easily swallow together with water.

Reduce the awful sensation of swallowing pills with this strawberry flavored spray to help pills go down effortlessly. This spray helps to prevent pills from getting stuck in dry mouths and throats.


  1. Pill splitting

Another way to give pills to someone who can’t swallow is to split larger pills into smaller pieces. With the use of a pill splitter, medication can be evenly cut to reduce gagging by taking in medication that is reduced in size.

Always discuss pill splitting with the doctor or pharmacist first as some meds should not be split or cut. If allowed to split the drug, this method can be combined with some of the other strategies above to facilitate swallowing.

One disadvantage of this method is that the bad taste of medication can increase by splitting the pills, and this can worsen swallowing issues. Some people deal with the poor taste by using the swallowing gel or pill glide spray to mask it and help with swallowing.