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Monitoring Medications for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Last Updated: September 08, 2018

Medication Challenges

Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia are very likely to be taking several medications: be they prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements or simply daily vitamins. Given the fact that many people will take several medications at once, people with dementia can face difficulties in managing their own medications. Memory challenges further complicate a regimen. In fact, even caregivers and family members can have challenges managing their loved one’s medications, especially when multiple, different caregivers assist throughout the day and night and on weekends.

  • How many kinds of medication do I take right now?
  • Did I already take my morning dose?
  • Can I take these prescriptions at the same time?
  • Should this be taken with food?

 

Suggestions for Caregivers

1. Make taking medications a normal part of the daily routine by pairing dosing with events throughout the day, such as meal time, going to or getting up from bed, or going for a run. If your loved one does not want to take a medication at a particular time, try moving on to some other activity and then offering the medicine later.

2. Pill containers, envelopes, or other containers that can organize doses of medication by time of day and day of the week can help individuals with dementia keep track of when to take medicine – they can also see when a particular dose has already been taken.

3. Keep a daily log of what medications need to be taken and when – such a chart can be a quick visual reminder. Use the Medication Management Worksheet available at the bottom of this webpage.

4. To prevent emergencies like overdose, medication should be stored securely in a locked drawer or cabinet and not left out with your loved one. Signs that your loved one may have overdosed include uncharacteristic changes in behavior such as extreme tiredness or agitation.

5. Document and relay information about medication side effects or changes in behavior and ability to your loved one’s doctor. You are in a key position to help your loved one get the best diagnosis and treatment possible. In a brief appointment, the physician often cannot detect all the problems that your loved one has been experiencing.

 

Technology Solutions

There are a variety of medication management solutions available today for home use. Think of these like electronic pill dispensers which link to a smartphone application. One pre-loads their pills for several prescriptions, inputs date and time to release those pills. The device releases the pills at predetermined times and sounds an alert to remind the individual to take their medications. If and when the pill slot is open, the device records this information and updates a companion smart phone application (or webpage) so that family members and caregivers can check to see if a medication has been taken.

This type of system is effective for certain individuals and situations, but by no means is it fool-proof. Persons with memory challenges may simply forget what the device does or what the alerts mean. The device is smart enough to know if the pills have been removed but cannot know if they were actually consumed.

 

Medication Management Worksheet

The National Institute on Aging has produced a printable Medication Management Worksheet (modified below) that can be shared or posted on the refrigerator or in the bathroom to help caregivers and family members to keep track of their loved one medication schedule.

Medication Organization Chart for Families and Caregivers
Name of Drug Dose & Instructions Purpose Date Started Doctor Pill Color / Shape