Top tip 3: Find out what medication people are taking

Support people to find out what medication they are on, to understand it and to ask questions about it. Do this on the person’s behalf when appropriate.

Ask people what medication they are on. If the person does not know then support them to get this information if they want to. Support the person to raise any questions that they want to ask. If the person lacks the capacity to tell you whether or not they want you to find out about or ask about medication, then do so if it would be in their best interests to do so and they do not object.

Find out more about particular medication using authoritative websites such as easyhealth.org.uk, and by asking the person’s Support Worker or a more senior member of staff. Support Workers or other more senior members of support staff should be asking the person’s doctor (GP or Consultant) the following questions. As an advocate, you can encourage this to happen and support the involvement of the person. In some circumstances it may be appropriate for you to support the person directly. This will depend on your particular role and working relationships.

Useful questions include:

  • Why is this medication prescribed - does the person have a confirmed diagnosis and if not, what is the rationale and evidence for using the medication?
  • How is it meant to help?
  • What side effects are common and uncommon?
  • How do you measure if it is working?
  • What monitoring and review arrangements should there be and what is actually in place?
  • Is the use of this medication the least restrictive option?
  • What other options are there? There should be documentation to say that alternative options have been properly explored.
  • Has the person had a physical health check for other issues that could be contributing to any behaviour which challenges (e.g. dental checks, sensory checks etc.)? See Tip 5 for more suggestions about this.

Review what you have learned against the Challenging Behaviour Foundation’s Pathway Resource to make sure the right checks and processes are in place – or will be.

Remember, some uses of psychotropic medications to manage challenging behaviour in people with a learning disability are ‘off-label’ for a licensed medication. This means it is being given for something other than the purposes authorised for that medication.