My mother is not senile (yet), but we are having the hardest time making sure she takes the medications that her doctors prescribe.

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My mother is not senile (yet), but we are having the hardest time making sure she takes the medications that her doctors prescribe for her. She has a tendency to stop taking something if it has a side effect she doesn't like, without discussing it with her doctor or letting anyone know she's not taking it. We constantly have to follow up to make sure she's taking each of her prescriptions and that she asks for renewals when things run out.


This week I took her to the doctor twice because she has a respiratory infection that started veering towards pneumonia even after the first round of antibiotics was prescribed. On the second visit the dr. prescribed a stronger antibiotic as well as a steroid to reduce the inflammation in her lungs. The doctor told her in my hearing that if she develops full-blown pneumonia she will have to be hospitalized, and I know that isn't what she wants.


Today my sister called me to say that my mother had decided not to take the steroid after reading the insert about possible side effects. (I had spoken to Mom on the phone an hour earlier and she didn't mention this to me). My sister stood over her with a glass of water and refused to leave until my mother took her pill.


On the way home from the doctor yesterday, my mother told me again that she didn't want to take her iron pills any more because they make her constipated. I reminded her yet again that the reason she had to take the iron pills was to avoid having to undergo another course of iron infusions, which was ten treatments given 2-3 times a week at her nephrologist's office. That was a royal pain for everyone, including her because she had to guzzle water all day to keep her veins open enough to allow the infusions. Finally she agreed, reluctantly, but I just know this is not the end of it. It never is.


Do any of you have parents who do this kind of thing? How do you deal with it?

8 Comments

Carla, I am one of those patients :P

My primary doctor has learned to give me the smallest dosage possible and for me to cut that dosage in halves or quarters [if the pill can be cut].   That way with the tiny dosage there usually aren't any major side effects, that way I can wrap my silly mind around this and next week take a half a pill, and eventually take a whole pill.

I tend to get every single side effect written in the phamplet, so I have stopped reading those.  But there are times when mind over matter grabs hold... [sigh]
My mother had dangerously high blood pressure. She claimed she took her bp pills but when her bp did not go down her geriatrician said she didn't want to prescribe something different until she was sure these pills were being taken and just didn't work. So we checked Mom's pill bottle. The bottle was half full, even though it should have been empty at least 2 months prior.
"Mother, didn't you say you were taking these pills?"
"I do take them when my ankles swell."
"You are supposed to take them every day!"
"Oh no. Who ever heard of taking pills when you don't have a problem?"

And I think that is common misconception of her generation. You take pills when something is obviously wrong -- not when you are "well".

When we got her to take the pills as directed her bp did come down. She didn't need a different medication. She was in the early stage of dementia. She'd take the pills for a few days and then revert back to long-held belief about not taking pills when "nothing was wrong."

We tried calling her daily, we tried a visiting nurse, we tried two kinds of automated pill dispensers. Her poor memory simply defeated us. This was a primary reason for deciding she could no longer live alone, even with all the support we arranged for her.

My father read every package insert and immediately had every side effect except fatality. His doctor scolded him and tried to get him to stop reading the inserts. He, the doctor, the trained expert, would decide when the benefits outweighed the possible risks. If Dad didn't trust him to make that decision he should find a new doctor. Dad loved that doctor so his lectures helped at least a little.

A psychiatrist prescribed two pills for me. I sat on the edge of the bed and read both inserts. And I cried. And I took the pills. I needed to either trust the doctor's judgment or stop seeing her. As it turned out I did have a side effect from one of them. The pharmacist was quickly able to identify which might have the effect and I discontinued that one and contacted the doctor.

Carla, at least your mom doesn't have memory problems to throw into the mix. Maybe you can convince her to continue and see if the side effects go away (they often do.) Maybe some of the measures we tried for my mom would work for your mom. Maybe if prompted her doctor could talk to her about this issue.

The fact is, there are absolutely no treatments for anything that don't contain at least some risk. But if the problem is severe and the risk are small and/or the side effects are minor, most sensible people are willing to take the pills!

Sorry you are dealing with this Carla. If you find something that works, share it with all of us! This is a very common problem with the elderly.
Okay, both your responses made me laugh out loud, so thanks for that, freqflyer and jeannegibbs. Jeanne, you mother with the blood pressure pills - that could have come right out of my mother's mouth. That's why it made me laugh.

I think this worries me because I'm realizing that if my sister and I have to monitor every dose of every medication that my mother is supposed to be taking, that would really turn our lives on end. I wasn't thinking of the nursing home at the end of the line, but of course that could turn out to be the ultimate consequence.

You are on to something, Jeanne. Her doctor is too easy on her, merely rolls her eyes at the excuses but does not lecture her sternly about taking what's prescribed. That's left to my sister and I. I will talk to the privately about it and ask her to be more forceful in her instructions. I'll check into those automated pill dispensers too.

Thanks both of you for responding.
Just a word about the pill dispensers. The first one buzzed when it was time to take a pill and the way you shut buzzing off was to push the button for the pill. That is it buzzed until you pushed the button or got down on your hands and knees, crawled under the table, and unplugged it. That shut the fool thing up!

The second one didn't buzz, it just dispensed a pill at the right time.
"Mother, why are all these pills in this little dish?"
"Oh, they came out of that machine."
"You are supposed to take them when they come out!"
"Well I do, if my ankles are swollen. "

Sigh.

Medicine management is one of the factors that determine the need for a care center.
Jeanne, I had to laugh when you wrote "My father read every package insert and immediately had every side effect except fatality" :)

Carla, to add to my post earlier on, my Dad didn't like taking his pills, either.   When Dad moved into Independent Living, his caregivers would leave him notes all over his apartments "Mr. Bob, take your night pills".   He would still forget.   So I opt for the Med Tech option where twice a day a Med Tech would come in with Dad's pills and stand there while Dad took his pills.   It was worth the cost.

Once Dad moved to Memory Care, while cleaning out Dad's apartment, I found pills that fell under the sofa cushions, under the sofa, under the recliner, in the cuff of his slacks, in the hamper, etc.
Jeanne, this thread seems to be bringing out the comic in you. LOL!!!
I'm not sure why seniors don't follow taking their meds as described, but it seems to be a common problem.

I discovered that my dad was doing this and I raised a big stink. My mom made an appointment, they both met with his doctor and got him back on track. My dad is competent and does not have dementia. He now writes a log of when he takes his mediation in a journal, date and time. I decided then, that if he stops taking them again, I will not interfere. As long as he is competent, I'm going to let him decide for himself and not get involved.

My mom is phobic of medication in general, so I stopped talking to her about it when she doesn't take hers. She is competent as well. The only med that I really stress to her that is important is her anti anxiety med. She suffers from many ailments that are brought on by anxiety and this med helps with that. When she doesn't take it, it makes everyone around her miserable due to her constant complaining, so for that reason I encourage her to take it.

If they become incompetent, then, I'll step forward about their meds, but until then, it's not something that I can control, so I am not going to stress myself over it.
I was surprised when my mom was tested that she had moderate to severe dementia - I'll bet you mom is hiding it from you & she does have undiagnosed dementia - have her tested A.S.A.P. for your own sake & hers

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