Caring for a loved one with dementia who is living at home requires paying special attention to their medications. As the disease progresses, the person’s ability to manage their own medications declines. The caregiver takes on more responsibility for ensuring medications are taken correctly and safely. With some planning and effort, you can effectively oversee your loved one’s medications at home.
Working with the Doctor and Pharmacist
Coordinate with all of your loved one’s healthcare providers to understand their full medication regimen. Bring an up-to-date medication list to every doctor’s appointment, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements. Ask the doctor or pharmacist to check for potential drug interactions whenever a new medication is prescribed. Get detailed information on every new prescription, including the purpose, proper dosage, frequency, and possible side effects. Report any concerning side effects to the doctor right away. Never change dosages or stop a medication without first consulting the prescribing physician. If costs or side effects are an issue, discuss alternatives with the doctor. Maintain thorough records of all medications your loved one is taking.
Developing a Routine
In early stages of dementia, reminders and aids may be sufficient for your loved one to take their medications properly. Use a pill organizer or keep a medication schedule to reinforce when each medicine should be taken. Establish a routine around taking medicines, like with meals or before bedtime. As the disease advances, you will likely need to provide more hands-on help. Clearly explain each medication and watch to ensure it is swallowed. Stop and try again later if your loved one refuses to take a pill. Alter the medication form if swallowing becomes problematic – consult with the doctor about liquid versions or crushing tablets.
Always store medicines in a locked cabinet to prevent accidental overdose. Discard unused or expired medications. Keep emergency numbers for poison control or your local ER handy in case of overdose. Join an online caregiver support community like ALZConnected to exchange tips on medication management.
Here are some extra tips for safely managing medications for a loved one with dementia:
- – Use a pill organizer with compartments labeled AM/PM or with the days of the week. This helps provide structure.
- – Set cell phone alarms or place visual reminders around the home when it’s time to take medications.
- – Have the pharmacist provide medications in easy-to-open packages. Bubble packs are better than fiddly bottles.
- – Mix crushed pills into a small amount of applesauce or pudding if swallowing pills becomes an issue.
- – Double check after administering medicines by checking your loved one’s mouth to ensure it was fully swallowed.
With preparation and vigilance, you can safely oversee medications for your loved one with dementia.