Chapter 4: Administering meds

Giving medication by suppository

When the doctor prescribed a suppository, my mother was very clear that she was very uncomfortable with this. So was I. We worked it out so that the care worker would help Mom with this instead of me.

Giving medication by suppository involves giving medications through the rectum so the medication can be absorbed into the large intestine. Using a suppository is usually the last option chosen, as families are often worried about the dignity of the person being given the medication. Because other routes are available, rectal medications are not commonly required.

To help someone with a suppository, you will need a glove and a water-soluble lubricant for the anal area (such as K-Y Jelly), as directed by the pharmacy or healthcare provider. Suppositories should be well lubricated and pushed as far into the rectum as the gloved index finger can reach.

Below are the steps for administering medication by suppository. Click on each tab on the left to see a list of the steps.

  1. If the suppository has been in the fridge, allow some time for it to warm up.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Put on disposable medical gloves.
  4. Read the instructions on the label to ensure you are giving the right amount of the right medication at the right time.

  1. Ask or help the person to lie on their side, with their upper leg bent forward.
  2. Lubricate the suppository and ask the person to take a few deep breaths to try to relax the muscles around the anus.
  3. Spread the buttocks to expose the anus and slide the suppository into the rectum, about 5 centimetres.

  1. Having the suppository in place may trigger the need to have a bowel movement.
  2. Encourage the person to hold it in place for  15 minutes to allow time for the medication to absorb.
  3. Dispose of the gloves and wash your hands.
  4. Write the medication in your medication tracking journal.

Watch the video for a demonstration and for tips on administering suppositories.


It is important that the person has no stool in their rectum. Otherwise, they may defecate and force out the suppository before it is fully dissolved. If possible, the person receiving the medication should try to have a bowel movement first.

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