Senior Does Not Want to Take So Many Pills

by francy Dickinson

Dear francy: My Dad is constantly telling me he has too many pills. I just do not know how to handle this, do I actually take some away?

I am right with you, my mother and my husband said the same thing. If you think about medications they do add up. Then you add in a supplement for joint pain, a small aspirin, stool softener and before you know it, you have a mess of pills to swallow.  So, here are some ideas.

* First I have all the medications on a listing on my computer. I put the pill type, the strength, the amount of pills per day, the doctor, what it’s for and then the time of day to take it and if it needs food. I am very good about keeping this listing up to date, so I can take it with me to any doctors office instead of a bag of pill bottles and present it at the hospital on emergency. It takes a little while to get it done the first time, but then it is just a simple update and you can save the file on your desktop to remind you.

* I have a morning and night – large pill container for my husband. But when I cared for my mother I had a huge container that I got through the hospital…she had 24 pills each day to take and I needed to give them to her four times a day. You will find these containers at the drug store or the pharmacy at your local hospital. They are a must!

* Once a week I go through my printed listing and check off the pills as I fill the container. I have to cut some of the pills and add supplements and such, but I do that once a week. Since most of my husband’s pills have to be taken with food, I make sure he has eaten before he takes the pills. I use yogurt, or pudding, applesauce, a bagel, or a cookie! Whatever works to get his stomach ready.

* Older people are generally not water drinking people. We all have so much water each day to flush our systems and we think everyone drinks a few glasses, not so! So, the best thing to do is to buy a juice like cranberry and put a small amount in the glass and then put in the water, so it gives it a bit of flavor.

* There are different ways to encourage people to swallow pills. You can have an Occupational Therapist  help you with this if you get to a point that swallowing is a problem. They are great at getting pills to slide down older throats!

* In our state laws (Washington) state a care giver can not put a pill in someones hand or mouth. They can only present the pill in a container and watch to make sure the patient takes it. But that rule does not pertain to a family member, so you do not have to worry about it. I personally take the pills from the pill sorter, twice a day and put them into a small bowl that I have and leave the lid of the pill sorter open. That way, if my husband forgets to take them or I forget if I gave them, I can see at a glance that I did hand out the “Tues Morning Pills” because of the lid. Then my husband takes them.

* My husband’s dementia means that he rarely remembers what pill is what and why he is taking them. So I printed out a copy of the pill listing I have done (see above) and I have it in a plastic cover. Each time he asks to stop taking some of his pills I hand the plastic sheet to him and say, read this and tell me which one you want to stop. Once he reads what each pill does, he says well I guess it’s OK. This happens a couple of times a week for us. Hopefully your Dad will only need one review of the listing to see each pill has a purpose.

*The argument my mother gave me in her advancing 90’s was…I am going to die of something, why take pills? I would show her the list and tell her. “If you stop taking your heart meds or blood thinner and you could have a stroke or heart attack, so be it. But, what if the result is not death but you are so weakened that it keeps you from talking – or your heart attack means you are in a high care nursing facility for months or years?” That always did it for her, she would then understand that the reason for the pills was not just to live, but to live with dignity.

* Now, when you get to a point that hospice takes over care for someone that is 6 months or so out from passing. They will lower the pills down to the ones that keep someone from pain and remove the ones that do all the background work. They do it with a doctor and they adjust the meds in a way that makes the patient comfortable and pain free. So that changes the goals of the medications, but it is done with a doctor overseeing the process.

* Mother’s doctors really did not know much about treating a person in their late 90’s. They were scheduling her for routine breast tests and bone density test, etc. I stopped that stuff. We did not have to run around the town to find out if she had problems with her body. Obviously problems happen when you are advancing towards 100. She did not want to go through surgery or extra treatment for anything at her age. So, the tests were out. That made the time at the doctor’s offices much easier for both of us. Those are things that a simple “health care directive” will guide you.

* If you do not have a Health Care Directive, get one. You need to be made aware of his wants on his care and his death. You can get very inexpensive “family law” software that has basic wills and power of attorney rights for your to fill out and print. (Or buy a form at the office store) Have this filled out with both of you, get it witnessed with two people that are not related and then get it notarized by a bank, insurance or reality office. This way you are legally able to make decisions for your dad if he is confused or unwell. It does not give you the right to work with his financial end…that would be a full power of attorney. That would be between you and your dad to decide.  Best to get this part of your relationship over and then you can concentrate on making medical and care decisions that you know he would want made on his behalf.

Good luck on the pills…hope this all helped and please visit my website to get more tips and information

Thank you, francy


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