For someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia who lives alone, medication is not a top priority. They are not neglectful of their health, but they are often unable to remember when they last took medication. Eventually, they may forget they need medication at all.
Before my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s she lived alone and took several medications daily. One medication was for high blood pressure, and while sitting at her kitchen table one afternoon I noticed the bottle was empty. I picked it up and rolled it around to check the date as I asked Mom if she’d like me to have it refilled before I headed home.
Clearly marked as containing a one-month supply, Mom’s blood pressure medicine hadn’t been refilled in over 3 months. I was appalled, but Mom appeared unconcerned while she asserted that she’d taken one of those pills that very morning. Confused, I couldn’t believe Mom would lie about taking a pill. I had the bottle refilled before I went home that day and purchased a pill management box at the same time. I decided to monitor Mom’s pill-taking before I returned in a week.
Later I learned that someone with memory-loss can not remember if they’ve taken a pill or not. They may lie to save embarrassment or quiet suspicions that they can no longer live alone. Due to poor judgment, they have no concept of the damage that could occur to their health by skipping medication.
There are multiple reasons why it’s not a good idea for a person with memory-loss to live alone while taking medication:
- They may skip a dose because they can’t remember if they’ve already taken a pill
- They may take multiple doses (over-dose) because they don’t remember if they’ve already taken a pill
- They may have more than one medication to take each day (compounding the problems)
- They may need to take one medication several times a day–They simply Can Not do it!
I tried everything I could think of to help Mom take medication in a sensible manner while she lived alone. Since I visited her almost every other day, it would appear to be a simple task. But some days the appropriate slot in her pill case would be empty, some days 3 slots would be empty, and one day she had removed all the pills and put them back into their respective bottles.
Despite the fact that I phoned Mom every morning, specifically to remind her about taking her medication– Some days she had taken a pill and some days she hadn’t.
I knew then she could not remember to take her medication and I had to find a different system. This struggle lasted for weeks. I tried a calendar with dates crossed off after pills had been taken. I tried a calendar with pills attached to each day in tiny plastic baggies. I tried a pill dispenser with an alarm and recording. Nope! Nothing worked! Shortly after my battle with Mom and her medication — Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and came to live with me.
We often fear that we’ll be seen as meddling into our parent’s affairs by checking their medications, asking questions about their habits. Yet, if you have a parent or relative with memory-loss you must learn about their medications and if they’re taking them appropriately:
- Are they taking their medicine/the appropriate dosage at the appropriate time
- Are all their prescriptions current and filled/Perhaps you can offer to help with keeping them current
A few items that may help with Medication –but not always
Medcenter Talking Alarm Clock And Medication ReminderIvation Automatic Pill DispenserMedCenter Your Minder Interactive4 Alarm Pill Box w/ Vibration ReminderMedCenter (70265) 31 Day Pill OrganizerElectrical Pill Box Dispenser