Sometimes seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia must take multiple medications. Their doctor may prescribe medications both to slow cognitive decline and help them better manage other healthcare conditions. Missing even one dose brings the potential for dangerous side effects. That is why it is important to keep up with the medications and make sure they are administered on time and as prescribed.

Many families and even professionals struggle when seniors with dementia resist taking their pills. It is important to never force the medications on the senior. Instead, the goal is to treat them with dignity and respect for their wishes. However, health and safety must also be considered. If they are not, the senior risks losing their independence and facing new challenges or complications. The best approach is to find a strategy that helps the senior to feel comfortable about taking their medications. Here are some ideas to try.

Consider Your Loved One’s Best Time of Day

We all have certain times of day when we feel our best. For some, this might be early in the morning. For others, mid-afternoon or late evening is when they feel most alert and the least resistant. Most medications are prescribed with a time of day recommendation. However, in many cases, that time is not set in stone. Oftentimes, the most important thing is to space the medication so it is taken every 12 or 24-hours rather than administer it at a specific time of day. If there is a time when you feel your loved one might be more inclined to respond positively to taking medications, talk to their doctor and see if that time might work.

Frequency, Delivery Method, Quantity

Once you have established a good time of day to administer medications, consider how may pills the senior has to take. Also look at how frequently they take each medication. If administering one medication three times a day is frustrating for example, see if the doctor can prescribe something that is equivalent but only taken once or twice a day.

If the frustration is getting your loved one to take a large pill, ask your doctor if the pill can be crushed. Better yet, see if it comes in a liquid or patch form. Either might be easier for the senior to use as prescribed. Finally, ask your loved one’s doctor to review their entire list of medications at each visit. Sometimes, medications are taken for longer than necessary. At other times, a new medication is brought to market that might serve more than one purpose. Switching medications out for different ones can cut down on the number of pills the senior has to take.

Explain the Medication in Simple Terms

People with dementia are sometimes resistant to take medications because they do not know what they are for. Alternately, if a side effect of their dementia is suspicion, they might think you are giving them something that they do not need or will even harm them. Remember that these seniors are still adults. They deserve an explanation of what they are taking and why.

The key is to keep that explanation simple. For instance, avoid using phrases like “do you remember” because cognitive decline makes it difficult for them to remember. This often only causes frustration. Instead say “this medication will help your knees feel less stiff” if they are taking a pill for arthritis. A blood pressure medication might be explained by saying “this is for your heart, to keep it healthy”. Use some patience while explaining medications. Take the time to answer questions in simple terms if your loved one asks them.

Create a Routine

Sometimes the reason why seniors miss doses of medications is because their caregivers do not manage the pills properly. This is often the case when caregivers are burnt out, over tired or trying to take on more tasks than they can reasonably manage. Simplify medication management by keeping a list of prescriptions with the time and dosage of each clearly lined out. Use a pill box that breaks the dosages up by days and morning, afternoon and evening. If the task feels really daunting, consider asking someone else to take it over. This could be a family member or friend. You might even consider hiring a professional caregiver to offer medication reminders or a homecare nurse to administer medications. Salus Homecare Orange County would be happy to discuss this option with you if you think it might be helpful.

Medications are a critical component in keeping seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia healthy and supporting them in maintaining independence. If you are struggling to keep up with your loved one’s medications or they are resistant to taking pills, try the steps above and see if they help. Keep your loved one’s doctor informed about your challenges, and ask them for advice that might help too.