While we touched on this last week, we think it’s worth further consideration. Managing a medication schedule becomes more challenging for many people as they grow older. When we are younger, we might not take any daily pills, unless vitamins and supplements are in our day-to-day regimen. Usually these pills are taken early in our day and then we are free to go about our activities with no thought to pill schedules unless the doctor puts us on an antibiotic for a short period of time.
As we grow older, our doctor might put us on a little something for blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid medication, or others. Gradually one pill every morning becomes several over the course of the day, some taken with food, some not, and before you know it you need those big pill organizers just to keep everything manageable and trackable!
Add to this equation forgetfulness and things can start going downhill quickly! For you as the family caregiver this can look like pill organizers that have random pills here and there throughout the system, or empty prescription bottles with no pills left to go into the organizer. Sometimes dementia creates paranoia, and your mom or dad might stop taking their pills because they think someone is trying to poison them. In this instance, they may pretend to take their pills and then spit them out a moment later.
There are several things you can try to help keep your loved ones on track with their maintenance medications. First, be sure they have an adequate pill sorter system that considers all the different times of the day they take their pills. There are lots of options for pill sorters and organizers, so do some digging and find the right one. There are even automated pill dispensers for the home that will give an alert when its time to take medications and then dispense the correct pills when a button is pushed. I won’t put a link here, but if you do a Google search on automated pill dispenser you will see lots of options. Some pharmacies will prepackage pills in long cellophane strips in the correct groupings so at the proper time you just go to the box and tear off the next blister pack. These can be very handy if your parent’s medications are highly consistent over time. Ask your pharmacist if this sounds like the right plan for you.
If you are present when your parent takes his or her medications and you think they are avoiding the doses, try to create a calm and pleasant environment when it is pill time. Find something enjoyable to watch on television or have “teatime” with a flavored tea or coffee. Create a routine each day that incorporates something your parent enjoys with taking the pills. If your parent’s doctor approves it, you can always crush the pills and put them in pudding, yogurt or applesauce to get the medication administered when nothing else works.
Missing a pill here or there might not seem like a big deal but having a strategy to keep your parents on their medication schedule is critically important to helping them live their best life possible as they grow older in your care.
Betsy and I hope you will join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about staying on top of medication compliance.