My mom is falling. Her medications are messed up she is back in the hospital.


The home health nurses, physicians and her spouse all know that she messes with the medication box, so we were going to lock up her medications and now she is so mad she is firing the agency and not speaking with me so what to do......

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My mother is in the early stages of dementia and lives at home. She ended up in the hospital 2 years ago from a fall and confusion and the main issue was a urinary tract infection, sodium levels that were out of whack, etc. She was released to a rehab facility for a few weeks where they were able to monitor the effect of changing and eliminating some of her medicines. As a result, she was able to get off a number of medicines that really weren't needed at her age (87) and could be causing bad side effects.
To help her with her medicines we keep it simple. This is a method my sister-in-law used with her mother that seemed to work for her.

She has 3 zip lock bags that are labeled for morning, after dinner, and before bed. Each bag contains the bottles with the pills to be taken at that time. Even though she takes metformin twice a day, there is a separate bottle for metformin in each bag so she only has to know that she takes one pill from each bottle.

Each zip lock bag has a large color coded dot on it with a different color for each bag. (sticky dots available in a stationery or drug store). Each pill bottle has the same color dot on the cap as the bag it goes in. She has 3 small plastic cups that are labeled for morning, after dinner, and night and each cup also has the correct color code. She does her pills after dinner, placing the pills in each cup. The morning cup remains on the dinner table and the before bed cup goes on the bathroom counter. This limits the number of times she has to set up the pills to once per day. These bags are all kept in a small basket she has access to. At least at this time she is not to the point where we feel the pills and the nature of the pills require them to be secured.

This helps her keep things straight and even though someone usually checks on her or is with her when she does her pills, I think she still feels she is in control of the situation. When she is tired she still has to think hard about what she is doing to set up the pills but by reading bags and looking at colors she can get through it.

She has problems remembering the day and date so having more than a day's worth of pills set up in a container might be difficult if she has trouble knowing what day it is. But next to her chair in the living room there is a wall mounted LCD clock that displays the month, day and year and also displays the day of the week. She also wears a wrist watch that also tells both the date and the day of the week. When she asks what day it is we just ask her to look at her watch or maybe at the wall clock. It's hard for her to remember to look there but slowly she is making it her first option rather than ask. A clock with the day of the week displayed by the pills might help. Just a suggestion.

I know these techniques won't work past a certain stage but right now she mainly has short term memory loss and some confusion and for that I am thankful. A lot of this new to her because up until my dad died last year he used to set up the pills for her every day.

Are any of the locked pill boxes covered by medicare, or medicare supplement plans? My mother needs one, but I am discovering they are very expensive!
She takes her medications 2 x a day, and is on pain management and is a pain medication addict so a locked box is imperative!! Any suggestions! (She resides in the state of WV)

I like that I wrote "confused to consider a lock box." That is probably more correct than refused to consider one. :D

orrwanda, I had a terrible time with my mother and her medicine. It was the one thing she insisted on having control over. She is diabetic and has high blood pressure, stenosis of the spine, and generalized anxiety disorder. She would take too much Metformin for her diabetes and make herself sick. She would forget her blood pressure medicine or more often take too much. And she was taking far too much Ativan for her nerves. She was running out of pills before the time her insurance would cover it. And the pills were making her sick and drunk.

Despite her problems, she confused to consider a lock box. I tried to take control of her drugs a couple of time, but it was horrible. One time it led to violence on her part. So I tried a kinder, gentler approach.

I put her pill bottles on the mantle, so I could keep an eye on them. Then I started only putting her dose of diabetes and blood pressure medicines in the bottles. She allowed me to do this with these medicines, as long as I didn't mess with her Ativan! Yes, she is an addict.

Surprisingly, as she started to take her diabetes and bp medicines correctly, she also decreased her use of Ativan. It is setting on the mantle, so she has to stop and think before taking it. I also equated using it too much to having another drink. My brother killed himself drinking, so it registered with her that having another pill to fill better was like having another drink. I told her I didn't want her to quit using them, only to use them less because they made her drunk and forgetful.

The method we use is awkward for me, but it is working. It is awkward because I have to remember what drugs to put out four times a day. In my mother's case, I knew I had to fit the need to take charge of the drugs with her need to have control. It has increased the quality of her life tremendously because she isn't sick feeling all the time. Of course, one would never be able to get her to admit it. :)

stressedmom, in my mom's case the "messing with the meds" is a memory issue. She forgets she took them so she takes more, or she forgets to take any. We thought a simple day-by-day pill box would work, but she sometimes forgets the day of the week it is. The visiting nurse brought a locked pill dispenser but it was way too complicated for Mom to figure out. When she couldn't get the pill drawer out and the reminder buzzer wouldn't shut off, she unplugged it. (Getting down to reach the floor outlet is not a good idea!)

My husband's dementia is relatively mild, but there is no way in this life I'd try to communicate with him about his meds. I have them in a cupboard in my office, I dispense them. I'm pretty good at figuring out how he thinks now (most of the time) but I have not figured out how to overcome the memory issue. He took a lot of pills before the dementia, so it is a lifelong habit and not something new he has to learn. But he simply cannot be responsible for remembering when he is supposed to take them or if he already did. That has become my job.

My husband's issue is easily solved. I am in charge of his pills. (It took a lot of communicating with him on his level to get him to accept this gracefully.) After a year, we are still trying to solve our mother's issues -- she lives alone.

I'm all in favor of smart communication. I just know from experience that no amount of communication can overcome memory problems.

My heart goes out to you, orrwanda. This is not a trvial issue.

You've got the same problem as everybody else: she's fighting for control of her own life, in a way that's not even good for her. You can understand her wish for control at the same time that you're trying to help her stay healthy. If she's sane, you have to do what you can to get the two of you on the same side of the issue. Find out why she's messing with the medcation box. Maybe some of the meds make her nauseous or something, everyone has a reason for everything they do whether it's a "good" reason or not. If she's demented you need to get smart about how to communicate and work with the way she thinks now. In fact, even if she's totally sane, a good summary would be the same: get smart about how to communicate and work with the way she thinks now!

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