by francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
I am going nuts over asking my wife if she has taken her pills. I get them ready before I go to work and she is unable to take them on time, even when I call to remind her. I need more ideas!
This is the way that dementia starts to tug at the mind of caregivers. It’s the little things that are so important and so hard to handle when you repeat and repeat and get no reaction. So let’s go through some of the guidelines of medication and see if we can give you some peace.
First, you’re only required to “try”. That means a good college try. Try everyday to keep the medications in her life as stable as you can. There is still a world out there and you have to live in it, go to your work and care for the rest of your family. So just take a deep breath and try. The consistent attention that you give your wife is much like what you had to do when your children were growing up. Frustration is high, disappointment is high, and worry is high for anyone caring for a patient with emotional or brain dysfunctions. It’s just what we have to do. As you know, I care for my husband with Alzheimer’s, too….so this pill is a big deal for YOU and for ME.
The importance of medication for dementia/Alzheimer’s seniors is really critical because the emotional pills keep them stable; the brain medication is designed to keep as many brain functions as possible – working. Taking two sets of pills in the morning will only confuse and upset the senior and omitting even one set of pills will change their personality and may do damage to the brain. If you remember from your doctor’s talking to you about the brain – it actually loses power when someone over-doses, gets upset, gets ill with a high temperature, infection or high confusion-stress event. It can take weeks to months to build brain functions back from those various events.
Since the brain on dementia/Alzheimer is now slowing down in growing new pathways – they may not recover. They will just go downhill faster. Brain trauma is one of the biggest recovery problems for the young solders coming home, wounded in the war. They have young healthy bodies and they’re able to slowly build up their brains again. They can make up for the brain functions that were lost and build new ones at the same time. Now it may take them months or years, but the function of their brain is always in a forward motion healing itself. The older senior – does not have the building brain power at that level anymore and has an actual block with the workings of dementia/Alzheimer’s condition – those seniors are in trouble. A step back is really two steps back and never forward again.
That means it’s up to us to help them remove the stress events, keep them from getting unwell, and keep their medication intake as close to schedule as possible. So, let’s review the steps to take to make the medication preparation easier:
- All medications, their strength, their name, the reason for taking them, the time to dispense, amount of pills and if they are taken with food – should be written down. Go to your computer and take time for a complete listing. Keep it right on your screen as an icon (save to the desktop) and update as you get new Rx’s. Add the supplements you are using, too. So you have a clear pattern of what pills to give and when that anyone can read and understand. Write it for someone else to read and it will be clear to all care givers and professionals that will need the information in the future.
- Most patients start with morning and night routines, but this may go up to four times a day. You need to have a good sized pill sorting/container. Go to the bigger drug stores and find a container that is right for your use. I now have to keep this container in my own bathroom, in a drawer, away from my husband’s sight. He will see it and think he has to take his pills at any time of day or night. So, I now have them tucked away.
- I keep the pill bottles in a basket and sort through the pills once a week and make sure I have them all in order. I re-order new meds if they are getting low and I buy new supplements. I use Turmeric and high B vitamins, a joint supplement and Omega Oils (salmon oil) if you want to know about those – do a Google and find out the different supplements that people are using to help with dementia. Remember all of the supplements are in addition to their medications. I fill up the 7 day supply of pills for morning and night and then I can relax over that part for the rest of the week. The big basket of pills containers goes up on a high shelf in my laundry room. (my husband does not enter that room)
- I take the pills from the weekly container – twice a day and put them in a small dish and hand them to my husband. If I am not there I have him take them before I leave, or I now have someone else give him the pills. If I was going to be gone for a day or two- I would have a friend in the neighborhood or a family member come and give him the pills. My husband is just not able to do it any longer without help.
- I have been asking him – “Did you take your pills?” for a year now! But, that is a silly thing to ask someone that cannot remember if they have taken their pills…they may remember they took them the day before or last night so the memory for them is not reliable. At first we would leave the lid of the morning open to check on during the day. That got too complicated and he doubled up his meds too many times. This new way of just dispensing the medications works best for me. I did the same thing for my mother’s care. I treat the pills as if I have a toddler in the house; they are put up on a shelf or in a room that they do not go into – for safety.
- Caution; in many states putting pills in someone’s mouth or putting mediated cream on their skin is not legal. So you have to know the rules for your area of care. If you are a family member the rules do not apply, you can administer the medications. I still, put them in a small bowl and he takes them with fruit juice & water. I now watch him do it twice a day. His Alzheimer’s pills have to be taken with food – I have bagels, yogurt and applesauce ready at all times. He has taken them on his own without the food and that results in heart burn or sick stomach – when that happens I know he has done something off the grid and I check the process out right away.
Trust your own mind. If your wife says something and you hear it but think she is misinterpreting things – check it. Go and look – see if the pills are gone or two day’s pills are missing. See if she can find the car keys and then change them to another spot. Take a note from what she says, she may be saying something important but in a form that your ear does not hear. So, retrain your ear to hear her meaning not her words.
I get upset over meds. I try so hard to get them right and it hurts me so when something goes wrong. My upset is Ok -I need to be a person with feelings, but to overdue the upset is wrong. That’s when you pull the senior in the pool with you and that can be harmful. Just like you used to do with the toddler, be firm and clear about the mistake and then leave it.
Have your wife take her morning meds before you leave the house. Ask the doctor to change any afternoon medications to something that can be given on a time release or morning only basis. (Because she will not take the meds on her own) Then you give her meds after dinner and that is that. Life has to have solutions and that is as close as you can get. If the meds require four times a day, getting a helper to come in and do it for you is a must. You can trade a retired person in the neighborhood for doing their lawn or having them over for dinner once a week. Think of ways to make it work, without a big expense.
Medications can make such a big difference in dementia/Alzheimer’s seniors that it’s worth the worry and the work over the process and I applaud you for your “good try”. Just keep plugging along, the path may be long and lonely, but the reward is your wife’s peace and quality of life. Thanks for all you do and please visit my website and get more information www.seniorcarewithspirit.com. Sign up for our newsletter while you are there!