Managing Medications For (Grand)Parents With Dementia

managing medications for grand parents with dementia

Those Day-of-the-Week pill containers and written instructions are insufficient to manage medications for parents or seniors with dementia. Forgetting what date, day, or time it is is a common side effect of memory loss and dementia in seniors, yet essential prescription medications depend on accurate dosages. 

8 Tips For Safe Senior Medication Management 

Your caregiving team’s dedication, combined with some other “tricks of the trade,” ensures your loved one gets the medications s/he needs at the right time and the right doses – regardless of dementia or other age-related memory issues. 

When managing medications maintain an updated medication list 

Recent data show that upwards of 85% of seniors take prescription medications, and 36% of all seniors take five or more different medications. In addition, these prescriptions and physician-recommended over-the-counter (OTC) medications can change regularly, so it’s essential to keep and maintain an updated medication list to avoid confusion.  

This list also helps to ensure you dispose of meds or supplements that are no longer required and refill or renew prescriptions that are soon to run out or expire. A simple Excel or Google spreadsheet is all that you need to print things large and clear. It can be printed and hung in a visible location for all to consult and amend as required. 

This list should include information such as: 

  • Names of each prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, vitamins, and supplements 
  • The symptoms or conditions the medication/supplement targets 
  • What dosage of each item is used 
  • How often each item is taken 
  • The healthcare provider who prescribed each medication, along with their contact information 
  • Any other pertinent details (better taken with food, between meals, etc.) 

Keep all medications and supplements in the same location 

In the past, it might have made sense to have some pills in the bathroom medicine cabinet, others on the nightstand, and supplements in a convenient kitchen location. Now, as different caregivers and helpers work together to provide consistent medication doses, it’s time to gather them together in the same spot.  

Grouping everything together makes it easier for both family and professional caregivers to keep track of what’s what, refill pill organizers, look out for expired prescriptions, etc.  

Store medications as instructed 

Some medications may require storage in a dark place or the refrigerator. However, almost all medicines and supplements should be stored in a cool, dry place. Keep this in mind. Bathrooms (often filled with steamy shower water) and cabinets near the stovetop (which may be more humid due to steam/moisture from cooking) are not the ideal medication storage areas. 

Mark medications clearly 

We talk quite a bit about age-related vision loss in our elderly client lives, but this same vision loss is typical for their caregivers in the 50+ bracket. In addition, prescription medications can have almost impossible-to-read labels, and that leaves increased room for error. 

Use masking tape and clear printing to re-write medication names and dosing instructions as needed on pill bottles. If bottles are too small, empty the contents into securely zip-locked/resealable bags and label those with the masking tape instead. 

Check for contraindications or negative interactions 

Physicians do their best to keep track of their patients’ medication prescriptions to make sure they aren’t prescribing medications that interact negatively with one another. Even so, mistakes are easy to make.  

So, when managing medications, review all of the medications with your favorite pharmacist to double-check s/he doesn’t have additional recommendations or warnings about your parent’s or grandparent’s current medication list. There are online drug interaction tools available for cursory checks, but we feel in-person assessments by a qualified pharmacist are best whenever possible. 

Create a reminder and tracking system 

Your medication list is an excellent place to begin, but we recommend creating a medication reminder and tracking system whenever possible. The good news is that technology is in your favor. The reality is that time can feel loosey-goosey when caregiving, especially when a loved one is on hospice or dealing with a critical illness or medical emergency. It’s easy to lose track, and a tracking/reminding system ensures you don’t miss a beat. 

There is a range of apps for managing medications at your disposal. Some of the top recommendations include: 

  • Medisafe Medication Management. In addition to providing reminders for specific medication doses, you can add Medifriends (aka, other caregiving team members) so everyone is synced together. 
  • CareZone. In addition to syncing medication reminders, including when your device is “asleep,” CareZone also provides PDFs of medication logs (like the type we recommended in #1) that you can print and hang on the fridge or a visible cabinet. 
  • RoundHealth. If your loved one takes almost as many vitamins and supplements as prescription medications, you may prefer RoundHealth. It’s suited for more complicated schedules and dosage instructions and provides an easy-to-read calendar that tracks what has and has not been taken. 

Get to know potential side effects 

Almost every medication has a list of potential side effects. It’s crucial for you to learn the most common of these and keep an eye out.  

For example, many medications used for heart disease cause dry mouth or make seniors more prone to dehydration, so your attention to senior hydration is important for your loved one’s comfort. Others may make them sleepy or decrease appetite, so smaller, nutrient-rich snacks help to fight drowsiness and keep them well-nourished. 

Keep a list of the most common side effects and simple solutions to combat them on hand, so everyone knows the warning signs. 

Take advantage of pharmacy mail or delivery services 

Most pharmacies provide mail or delivery services for free or at a very low cost. It’s worth it to sign up for these services to ensure you never run out. It’s not always easy to run out on a last-minute pharmacy run, especially if you’re caring for a homebound or chairbound senior. Having refills on hand when you need them is essential. 

Need Assistance Managing Medications?

Are you having a hard time finding medication management support for your senior parent or grandparent? Schedule a free, in-home assessment with HomeAide Home Care. Our experienced team of caregivers can provide customized solutions to ensure your loved one takes his/her medications as prescribed.

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