Dementia, Home Safety and Medications
Older adults can be harmed at home due to inadvertently taking too much medication. This risk is greater with dementia because the person may not recall if or when they had taken their last dose. So, they take it again and sometimes, even again. Or, he or she may take the wrong medication or get confused about the instructions, such as not understanding that they can take two drugs together if one label read “every 12 hours” and the other “twice daily.”
There are various ways to reduce the risk of medication errors. The right approach (or combination of approaches) is unique to the person with dementia. You must consider their living situation, personality, remaining abilities, functional losses and where their medication regimen fails. Here are three ways to intervene:
- Storage - Some people with dementia do well with a multi-dose, pre-packed pillbox that organizes each day’s dosage in its own compartment (as long as the pillbox is set up accurately). Others may need to have their medications locked up except when taking a dose.
- Tech - There are a few smartphone apps that can provide reminders for the person with dementia or their caregiver. Beyond the standard pillbox, there are machines that sort and dispense pre-loaded medications. Many have additional features such as loud alarms and flashing lights that remind the person to take their medicine. Machines that limit a dose until the right time can help prevent someone from taking multiple doses too close together. However, the person with dementia might possibly skip a dose by setting those medications aside and not ingesting them. Unless witnessed by another person in real-time, it is impossible to know whether the person took the medications on time, or at all.
- Supervision - Another person reminds them when it is time to take medication, either in person, over the phone or via video chat. This person could be a family member, friend, neighbor, paid caregiver or service. However, the person with dementia could still take medications too often if they have unrestricted access to them.
If the person is confused by dosage instructions, gadgets or storage, methods should be combined with human supervision to ensure the right pills are taken at the right time. ComForCare Home Care can help with that. Our caregivers provide medication reminders and assist with personal care and meal preparation. To learn more about services in your area, contact your local ComForCare office.