In addition to medications and vitamins that patients take to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, patients are often prescribed meds for other ailments. All of these require management by the caregiver.
In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may be cognizant enough (with close caregiver supervision) to limitedly manage their own medications. If for instance, the patient takes medications in the morning or evening, associating it with a practice, like eating dinner or breakfast, then they may readily remember to take their medicines. The act of taking their medications can be attributed more to rote than to actual remembering, but it will allow the patient some regulated independence. They eat breakfast and down meds. They eat dinner, and then take their pills. In the same manner, a nighttime routine may act as a trigger to take pills at bedtime.
While some patients are able to “remember” to take their medications, caregivers have to pay very close attention to the process. Visual observation will guarantee that the patient takes the correct medication, and the correct dose at the right time.
Just as failing to take prescribed medications is dangerous, overdosing is also a serious concern. Caregivers should keep a medication file handy, to present at the hospital or poison control center in the event of an overdose.
Once it is determined that the patient is incapable of consistently administering their own medications, the caregiver should immediately take over the responsibility. Take an extra precaution by making sure the medications are inaccessible to the patient. Don’t assume that the child restraint cap is a sufficient deterrent.
Managing and Dispensing Pills
Coral all the medications into one place, perhaps on a lazy Susan, or in a nice basket or a small, sturdy box that will accommodate the plastic containers. Whatever you choose should be portable, so that it is easily carried from one room to the other. You will not dispense the medications from the bottles corralled in your nice basket or lazy Susan. It takes too much time and effort, and it’s also easy to make mistakes. Dispensing can be very confusing, given that some medications are prescribed for multiple times per day or even once or twice per week.
The most effective way of keeping medications straight is to use plastic pill dispense boxes, also known as dose or pill planners. The pill planners have individual compartments that are labeled with the days of the week. Caregivers will transfer the number of pills required for each day into the segment of the pillbox that is labeled for that day.
Caregivers can further differentiate between pills by separating nighttime medication from daytime medication. Choose a darker color pill planner to in which to place nighttime medications.
Using pill planners simplifies the process of dispensing medications. Caregivers plan out their loved one’s medications once a week, or multiple weeks at a time.
Pharmacies sell the compartmentalized boxes, or for your convenience, they can be purchased online. Prices vary, but the boxes are very affordable.