Tips to Help Caregivers Manage Medications for Person with Dementia

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I’ve been fortunate in that I really have not had to take medications during my life. That’s good news for me, but I found it was really difficult to get into the routine when I had to take over Mom’s medications when she came to live with me. Her memory had really deteriorated by that point – she was two weeks away from getting a diagnosis of full-blown Alzheimer’s disease – so she couldn’t coach me on what she needed to take and when. I tried to develop a routine, but wasn’t really successful at it. However, she was soon placed in a nursing home due to her Alzheimer’s and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so health care professionals were able to take over this chore.

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    Therefore, I was really interested to come across a medication education sheet. I think the information is great for anyone who has to take medication, but also is important for a caregiver to understand when helping coordinate the prescriptions of someone who has mild cognitive impairment or dementia.


    First of all, the caregiver needs to follow the directions given by the doctor, which should be listed on the medications. Do not skip medications and don’t let the person who has dementia take more than the suggested dosage. Additionally, the caregiver should not give medications to another person to take; only give medications to the person to whom it’s been prescribed. Also, make sure you don’t dispense medications in the dark since it is very easy to make a mistake. Furthermore, dispensing medications in the dark won’t allow you to see whether the person with Alzheimer’s actually takes the medication. Instead, the person may not put the drugs in his or her mouth and then hide them somewhere else. And if the person does put the pill in his or her mouth, you won’t be able to determine if the pill is actually swallowed unless you have good light.


    There are also a number of “do’s” that the caregiver needs to be aware of. Here goes:

    • You need to dispense each medication actually as it has been prescribed. If you have questions, contact the pharmacy where the medication was purchased.
    • When you take the person with Alzheimer’s to a medical appointment, make sure you tell the doctor about all prescribed medications being taken. Also be sure to let the doctor known about any other over-the-counter medications, vitamin, supplements and herbs that the person who has dementia may be taking.
    • Try to use the same pharmacy to fill all prescriptions so that they can help you keep track of everything that the person with dementia is taking. That way, they can alert you to any potential drug interactions, warn you about possible side effects and guide you about any issues that might occur with taking over-the-counter medications or lifestyle choices (such as drinking alcohol).
    • Keep medications out of the reach of the person with dementia as well as other members of the household who do not need to have access to the medications. That list should include children and pets.
    • Makes sure you dispose of unneeded medications properly. If you have questions about how to do this, contact your pharmacist.
    • Read the medication guides that are provided on the medications each time you get a refill since the information may have changed.

    And where there are “do’s,” you know there will be a set of “don’ts” as well. Here’s that list:

    • Do not change the medication dosage or schedule of when you give a medication to a person who has dementia without consulting the person’s doctor.
    • Do not give the person who has dementia any medication that has been prescribed for someone else.
    • Do not crush or break pills that have been prescribed unless the doctor gives instructions that you may do so.
    • Do not give the person with Alzheimer’s medications that have passed their expiration dates.
    • Do not store medications in locations that are too hot (such as near the stove) or too cold.

    Primary Source for This Sharepost:

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    Texas Pain & Spine Consultants. (nd.). Medication education – Do’s & don’ts.

Published On: June 28, 2013