LivWell LivWell

Medication Safety

Medication Safety

September 28, 2023

As individuals age and face health challenges, they might encounter a situation where they need to take numerous medications. The array of yellow, blue, green, and purple pills can become confusing. Adding to this complexity, imagine the person dealing with these medications also experiences a cognitive decline, making it challenging to follow dosage instructions and comprehend the importance of timely intake. This situation can lead to confusion and chaos, not only for the individual taking the pills but also for the person responsible for organizing them.

Consider This Scenario

Jessica and Arthur are a retired couple. Jessica has been Arthur’s caregiver ever since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. As Arthur’s condition worsens, Jessica can no longer simply remind him to take his pills or even set them out for him. On top of this, ensuring timely medication refills and organizing them in a pill planner becomes even more demanding. With Arthur managing multiple health issues and taking up to 28 pills per day, arranging the right pills in the correct compartments of the pill planner becomes an extremely stressful and time-consuming task for Jessica, often taking hours to complete.

Managing an ever-growing list of vital medications can be an overwhelming experience. LivWell Seniors understands these challenges and encourages caregivers to read this informative article by an invaluable member of our Caring Network, which provides guidance on best practices for managing the medications of a person with Alzheimer’s.

It’s important for everyone who takes a medication to understand its purpose and proper usage. Additional measures may be needed to ensure individuals living with dementia take medications as directed. A plan to safely manage prescription and over-the-counter medications is critical to avoid medication-related problems.

Working With the Doctor and Pharmacist

Coordinate with all care providers. A person with Alzheimer’s may be under the care of more than one doctor. Make sure all healthcare team members know about any prescription and over-the-counter medications, including herbal or vitamin supplements. Each time you go to an appointment, take a list of current medications and dosages.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist to check for possible drug interactions. When a new medication is prescribed, ask whether it is okay to take it with other current medications. Also, remind the health care team of any allergies to medications or side effects that have occurred in the past.

Get details. Find out as much as possible about every medication, including name, purpose, dosage, frequency and possible side effects. If troubling side effects occur, report them to the doctor.

Take as directed. Do not ever change dosages without first consulting the doctor who prescribed the medication. If cost or side effects are an issue, tell the doctor. There may be other solutions.

Maintain medication records. Keep a written record of all current medications, including the name, dosage and starting date. Carry a medication list with you in your wallet or purse. This record will be invaluable in the event of a serious drug interaction or overdose.

Giving Medication to Someone With Alzheimer’s

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the person with dementia may need help remembering to take medications. As a caregiver, you may find it helpful to:

Use a pill box organizer. Using a pill box or keeping a daily list or calendar can help ensure medication is taken as prescribed.

Develop a routine for giving the medication. Ask the pharmacist how medications should be taken — at a certain time of the day or with or without food. Then create a daily routine, such as taking medications with meals or before bed.

As the disease progresses, you’ll need to provide a greater level of care. In addition to using a pill box organizer and keeping a daily routine, try these tips:

Use simple language and clear instructions. For example, say, “Here’s the pill for your high blood pressure. Put it in your mouth and drink some water.”

If the person refuses to take the medication, stop and try again later.

If swallowing is a problem, ask if the medication is available in another form. Talk to the doctor who prescribed the medication or the pharmacist to find out if a liquid version is available or if it is safe to crush the medication and mix it with food. Be aware that no pill or tablet should be crushed without first consulting your physician or pharmacist since it can cause some medications to be ineffective or unsafe.

Make changes for safety. Be sure to place medications in a locked drawer or cabinet to avoid accidental overdose and throw out medications that are no longer being used or that have expired. Join ALZConnected (, the Alzheimer Association’s online community and message boards, where caregivers exchange ideas and receive support.

Have emergency numbers easily accessible. Keep the number of your local poison control center or emergency room handy. If you suspect a medication overdose, call poison control or 911 before taking any action.

© 2023 LivWell Seniors - Senior Living Solutions, All rights reserved. Website by Terrostar®. |