Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Doing The Weekly Dementia Pill Drill

Morning Pills and Evening Pills
Photo by Pam Stephan
Dad takes pills - 10 pills every day - as part of his daily routine. Sometimes he balks about taking them, but most of the time he just knocks them back five at a time with a slug of coffee. I feel fortunate as a dementia caregiver, because we haven't gotten to the point where he can't cope with taking more than one pill at a time.

My job is to keep track of ordering refills and to load his morning and evening doses. The medications are prescribed by different doctors and come from a local, as well as a mail-order pharmacy. 

Every time we see a doctor or a dentist, I take along a medication list. The list includes the names of all medications as well as the dosage. Below the list I have a table that shows what time of day these are taken. If we have to go to the Emergency Room, I just scoop all the medications into a small suitcase and bring them along. The medical staff always likes to see all the information they can get.

When Dad was having trouble sleeping, I looked up his newest prescription to see if it could be causing him problems. Side effects are always possible, and since any change in his medications could create a new challenge, I try to stay informed. When I can't solve a medication problem on my own, I ask the doctor. Being a patient advocate comes with the territory!

Good questions to ask are:
  • What is the best time of day to take this medication?
  • Should this be taken with food?
  • Will this pill be compatible with Dad's other pills?
  • Can we get this in a generic version, to save money?
  • What should we do if he misses a dose?
  • What are the most common side effects?

For memory he takes Namenda and Razadyne. He has atrial fibrillation, so he's got a fancy blood thinner to prevent stroke. There are pills for allergies and asthma, for high blood pressure. And he also takes a generic form of Zoloft for mood. Mom passed away 8 years ago and Dad still misses her daily. 

I load Dad's pill bottles a week in advance and sort them into Morning and Evening. He always takes pills right after a meal. I've learned to give him the pills only after he has finished eating, because he sometimes mistakes them for candy and chews them! When that happens, he spits them out, to get rid of that bitter taste. That is 5 wasted pills. 

One day, I handed Dad his Morning pills after breakfast. He carefully sorted through them and picked out the pink ones, giving them to me and saying, "Here, have some of these goodies!" While I was touched that he wanted to share, I showed him that I had my own pills to take. He consented to take the pink pills, and we went on to have another good day together.

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