Taking prescription medications properly is vital to someone with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. People with dementia are likely to have difficulty remembering what medications to take, when to take them, and whether or not they have already taken their doses for the day—making the role that caregivers play even more important.

Why monitoring is necessary

When someone with dementia begins making medication mistakes, it’s a sign for the caregiver to start monitoring prescription intake. Forgetting to take daily medications can be detrimental to the person’s overall health, especially if doses are missed on a frequent basis. Someone with Alzheimer’s might also forget having already taken a scheduled dosage and accidentally take it again—potentially more than once—leading to life-threatening overdoses. Additionally, seniors may inadvertently take incorrect medications—a family member’s prescription, perhaps—which could expose them to dangerous side effects.

Many people—even those without memory problems—find that common pill organizers are helpful. Most dispensers include day-of-the-week compartments and some have morning and nighttime separators. There are even automated dispensers that track activity and send reminders via text messages.

How to monitor medication intake

In addition to monitoring when and which prescriptions someone takes, caregivers should try to observe how the person is actually taking medication whenever possible. What’s more, caregivers should familiarize themselves with the prescribing doctor’s instructions to make sure those in their care are taking meds correctly.

Also, always be certain to properly store meds between doses. Never leave drugs on countertops or in cabinets where someone with dementia might find them.

Verify treatments with doctors

Should someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia insist on discontinuing a medication, always check with the prescribing physician to make sure it’s okay. If the person has increased difficulty taking medicines, ask the doctor if it’s okay to mix the meds into food or beverages, or if the medication is available in liquid or patch forms. That allows you to dispense prescription medication without adding unnecessary stress.

If you notice sudden changes in the health of the person in your charge (i.e., bathroom accidents, behavioral outbursts), notify a doctor immediately. Such changes could indicate an adverse reaction to a medication, or be symptoms of a new illness.

Providing care is no easy task

People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia require lots of care, and even seemingly simple jobs such as regulating medication intake can cause caregivers to feel overwhelmed. But monitoring medication usage ensures that those with Alzheimer’s receive all the benefits from their prescriptions while keeping them safe from mishaps.

For more information about taking medicines safely, read this helpful booklet from the National Institute on Aging.