Beware of Storing Medications in the House


When you care for a person with dementia, it is sometimes like having a small child in the home.

Tonight Charlie came into the living room holding a bottle of Advil PM, told me it was almost empty, and asked me to put it on my grocery list. They are kept in the bathroom medicine cabinet and I didn't know he had been using them. I asked him why he needed them and his response was, "Everyone needs to take pills, don't they?"

My first reaction was to laugh. The only pills Charlie takes are two vitamin D capsules per day. He has no medical conditions that require medication; pretty amazing for a man of 81. He was on Namenda for the dementia for a short time, but had adverse effects from it so the doctor took him off the memory pill.

My next reaction was one of concern. It seems that I need to put all medications in a hidden place where they aren't readily available to him. He has no concept of what he is taking or why he is taking it. Charlie has always been a person who thought there was a pill for any and every condition.

When I first met him, he was ordering case lots of various herbal medicines that he had seen advertised in health magazines. If he sees a medication touted on TV he tells me he thinks I should ask the doctor to prescribe it for us. When I ask him why, he naively responds that, "They say it is good for you. "It may be medicine to control diabetes, which he doesn't have. Or it may be something for prostate disease—his prostate went to heaven long ago. But of course, he has forgotten about that.

Top of my list for things to do tomorrow will be to gather up every prescription and non-prescription medication or herbal remedy in the house and find a safe place where he would never think to look.

Just to keep him happy I may have to ask the pharmacist for a placebo to dole out along with his vitamin D. I'll tell him it is a sleeping pill or a prostate pill or Viagara. He'll think he's good as new again. As for the Advil PM, unless he develops difficulty sleeping, I won't be replacing the bottle.

A man who sleeps fourteen hours a day certainly doesn't need a sleep aid. That too is like having a child in the house.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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One more thing! He has started chewing the pills and they are bitter. I have to remind him every time "Don't chew" and give him plenty of water so he will swallow. Capsules shouldn't be chewed, nor should extended release pills. If there comes a time when he can't swallow, special pharmacies prepare liquid medicines for such patients.
I have read not to store meds in the bathroom. Too damp or something. Hide what is prescribed in the kitchen. If he likes to take pills, give him a vitamin pill. Most of need that anyway.
So true, Marlis. I hid all the OTC medications here because my mother likes to take pills. Aspirin, Exedrine, Advil, Tylenol -- the more pain relief the better. I took pity on her liver and got things out of sight. I really need to toss them.