Medication management vital for those with dementia

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"Have patience - remember how you will want someone to treat you when you reach the time when you need a caregiver!"

- Anonymous

Imagine this: You wake up and feel pain in your joints, causing you to feel anxious. As the morning goes on, you feel more pain, yet you cannot verbalize this to your loved one because the part of your brain that helps you communicate is broken.

He or she helps you get ready for the day, unaware that even getting dressed is painful. But somehow you manage and are ready to go to Memory Matters for the day.

Typically, you like going to Memory Matters, but today you do not want to be there because of the pain that is causing anxiety. When you finally get to Memory Matters, you are so agitated that you cannot stay.

The staff asked your loved one what could be wrong today. Missed medication was not mentioned, pain is not mentioned, and so another day goes by with no resolve, because you are locked in a body that cannot express your feelings.

Medication management is one of the most important components in helping a person with dementia feel better both physically and emotionally. And yet far too often caregivers, even doctors, do not address issues of pain and anxiety.

Too much emphasis is placed on just cognitive decline. But did you know that depression, pain, dehydration, constipation, urinary tract infections, and compromised sight and hearing are all contributing factors to memory decline?

Did you know that if someone is not getting their medication as prescribed that their behavior is affected? Are you aware that when your loved one cannot self-medicate anymore, their medication could end up in the trash can, toilet, or anywhere but in their body and that missing this medication causes changes in their behavior?

Medication management can be the missing link determining whether a person with dementia is happy or aggressive. I have outlined a few suggestions to help you keep your loved one on schedule with medications.

  • Be candid and direct. In simple language, help them understand the kinds of medication they are taking and why. Do not over-explain. They might be past the stage of understanding.
  • Develop a routine for giving medications.
  • Stay organized, labeling pills a.m. or p.m. or take with food or on empty stomach. Do not ignore these directions. If they refuse to take them, stop and try again later.
  • Adapt to the person. If they have a difficult time swallowing ask your physician if you can get the medication in liquid form, crushed and put in food, or compounded.
  • Take safety precautions. Keep medication locked up and watch them swallow their pills.

For more suggestions on medication management, visit www.alz.org.

For this and many more resources, make an appointment with one of our dementia care specialists.

Just a reminder that the 10-week Brain Boosters class begins April 21. The class is getting full, so call Memory Matters today, 843-842-6688, to get more information and reserve your spot.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org

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