How do I get Mom to take her meds?

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My mother is 78 and showing early signs of dementia. She is taking medication that can slow the progression but she isn't taking them on a regular basis. Does anyone have any tips for helping her take them as she should? My mother is quite disorganized and has her pill bottles scattered through out the house. My sister lives nearby but Mom refuses to let her help with the meds. I live an hour away so I can still stop by but not on a daily basis.
I am planning on asking if she would like to have a care giver stop by a few times a week to check on her and see if that helps.

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Top Answer
I'm assuming that your mom lives by herself?

Someone needs to jump in here and get this medication issue organized. Your mom may not be taking her medication as prescribed but she could also be taking it and then not remember she took it and take it again. Get those prescription bottles that are scattered throughout the house and get them organized. Familiarize yourself with what your mom takes, why she takes it, and when she's suppose to take it. Since your sister lives close to your mom she might be the person to get this going but don't leave it all up to your sister to deal with, jump in yourself.

If your mom lives alone a caregiver is a good idea however if your mom is supposed to be taking daily medication having a caregiver "stop by a few times a week" isn't going to do any good. And regardless of whether mom likes it or not, that medication needs to be organized. Throw out anything she doesn't take anymore (don't keep it "just in case"). Get a pill box and make sure it's filled every week. Is your mom able to look at the clock and think, "Oh, it's noon. Time for my noon medication."? If not then you might have to figure out a way to ensure your mom is taking her daily medication. Hire someone, look into assisted living, maybe sis can stop by your mom's house everyday....Something needs to get figured out.

Your sister should start by organizing the meds and then after putting them in a pill box for the week take the bottles and stash them away where your mom can't get to them. My dad used to organize his own medication in a pill box. He had no dementia and there was no reason for me to worry about what he was doing. Then I found out that, in order to be able to fill all of his scrips at the same time, he was organizing his pills in HIS order, not according to when he was supposed to take them. After that, I took over his medications. We don't know what our parents are doing until we stick our snouts into their business as uncomfortable and unwanted it may be. And when it comes to dementia we have to protect our parents from themselves because they no longer have the ability to safely take care of themselves. My dad eventually lost his mind due to the disease process of liver failure and he was completely unable to care for himself. I know it hurts to see your mom like that and to realize that your mom, who took care of you your whole life, now needs taking care of herself. Between you and your sister you should be able to do this for your mom. As you know dementia only gets worse so it might be time to have a talk with your sister about what to do when the day comes and your mom can't care for herself at all. Don't wait until that day comes to discuss it. Discuss it NOW. This thing with the medication is just the beginning. And if your mom still has periods of lucidity try to talk to her about what she has in mind for herself.

But you're doing the right thing now. You've recognized a problem and you're taking steps to resolve it. I think your mom is lucky to have you and your sister in her corner.
Yes you need to get her meds set up in pill boxes instead of spread out all over her apt. But even doing that may not help in the long run. My mom doesn't have dementia but has no short-term memory. I have her morning and evening meds set up for the week. She's been pretty good about taking her meds until the past few months, where she'll forget (Saturdays 4X for some reason, and evening coumadin several times).. I call her at 8 AM and at 6 PM. I'll ask her if she's taken her meds, but she'll say she has when she hasn't (she can't remember). I've also made her get up while I'm on the phone to see if her meds are there. She gets confused about what day it is, which can cause problems because she'll start a new box on the wrong day...or take her Friday meds on Thursday. It's enough to make you tear your hair out. And I just live 1.5 miles from her and am over there multiple times a week.

So good luck, but unless someone comes in to give her her meds at the right time, there's no foolproof method that I've found.
eyerishgirl is accurate imo . shortterm memory loss is the big deal with dementia patients and meds need to be monitored and organized carefully. i even used to try to make a med list but mom would keep disappearing with it so i made a new one and hung it on the wall high enough she couldnt reach it. you might have to toss out the info that comes with all meds too because theylle read that crap and be flipping out over hypothyrokopeniarhingitis and such.
at some point paranoia will set in and youll be trying to poison her. you might need a hospice nurse to play the good cop at this point.
there aint an easy road and if someone sez there is, theyre lying.
Ask the doctor to order a visiting nurse. Gather up all the pill bottles. The RN gave Mom a seven-day pill box. I fill it every week. The pill bottles are out of reach on top of the fridge. She was obsessing over all the little bottles The nurse and I check to see if she took the medications in the little compartments marked: AM, NOON, PM, EVE. This way we know if she forgot some and she can't take them twice, which she had been doing. She's doing much better.
PS mom objected to us doing this, but we gave her no choice. Just do it. We actually took the pill bottles OUT of the house for a few weeks to stop the nonsense. She complained bitterly. We did not give in.
These are very helpful answers so thanks everyone! Yes, my mom lives alone in the same house her parents lived in. While my sister lives nearby she and mom butt heads quite often -- too much alike! :)
I will definitely see about getting her some 7-day pill boxes. Mom frequently forgets what day it is, and thus often misses Dr appointments. What I'm thinking of doing is organizing her pills in 7-day pill boxes and putting a calendar clock right next to where her pill box will stay. That way she can look at the clock and pill box and know whether she has taken her meds that day or not.
I'm rethinking the caregiver stopping by since it doesn't appear they will be able to help much regarding her meds. Mom can still drive and cook and she has maids that stop by a couple of times per month. Maybe down the road a caregiver will be of help but maybe not now. Thanks again!
This becomes a problem for most caregivers and unless you are in the same house and can give them out at the appropriate time there is no sure way of knowing they are being taken properly Setting up a pill box is very helpful especially if your elder is co operative and appreciative. At this point I would see it as controlling. I would still take them but feel resentful. I admit to very occasionally forgetting them but of course I immediately know next time I open the pill box.If your loved one is unco -operatve ask your Dr which ones are absolutely necessary to try and reduce the numbers. Anything large pills may be available as a liquid which is easier to swallow. Certain people may have more luck in the persuasion department so let that person give the meds if necessary under supervision. For example a pre-schooler could do this. Gma may happily open her mouth for a little cutie. If your patient is basically helpless and spits everything back at you essential medications can be given rectally. By essential I mean meds for pain and agitation and other comfort care. If you have hospice they will give you guidance with this. Be very careful with crushing pills to mix in jam etc. Some pills MAY not be crushed so check with your pharmacist because this can cause harm to the patient. A few medications come in liquid form and even fewer as suppositories. If you are lucky enough to live in a small town where there is a compounding pharmacist they can make anything safely given rectally into a suppository. I have only seen Tylenol and Compazine stocked by most pharmacies but I live in a rural area

Yes, veronica, it is controlling and she was resentful. What led us to do this is when she accidentally tripled her Coumadin, had a nasty cerebral hemorrhage and ended up in ICU. What would you have done to prevent a repeat?
Pam, I was not being critical of the action you had taken, I was just trying to explain that at the age of 75 being in my right mind (in my opinion) I would not have liked it and am assuming that your mother also thought she was perfectly capable of handling this herself although that clearly was not the case. I am a strong believer in "doing what you gotta do" Our eldest daughter wants us to move closer to her so if things go bad she won't be a five hour drive away. I got a little whiff of control in there however kindly meant (not from you) and mentally became defensive because she is a really good and generous daughter and has nothing to gain from us.
From your posts I know you have a very clear vision of what needs to be done and get on and do it. No beating about the bush where you are concerned which is a wonderful attribute. So many people get mired down in the stress of caregiving. Not their fault, they basically were put in a position of walking into a nursing home and being told they were in charge. And on top of that the departing staff said "Mr X just s**t his pants and Mrs Y is running down the hall naked and the evening meds are due here are the keys"
Caregiving is not for the faint of heart as you well know and I often refrain from saying what I would or have done in certain situations. I totally admire how you deal with things and would be very glad to have you in my corner.
I had intended to post this on your wall but you don't seem to have one, so here's a hug anyway. I too hate the rat poison but would rather take that than throw a clot.
My MIL is convinced that vitamins make you want to eat more, therefore vitamins make you fat. She asks me from time to time if there are any of those fattening pills in her pillbox and I just tell her no, nothing in there is going to make you fat. I thought I was in trouble when she started asking what some of the pills were. Luckily my cats had followed me inside and were being nosy so I had an excuse to not answer the questions. Had to chase my nosy cats out of her room and take them home to feed them. Good kitties! I fix up her pillboxes and bring them to her twice a day. My nephew had been filling up a week's worth of pillboxes but she would take them, forget she'd taken them and take them again.

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