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My MIL is mixing up when to take her medications. I am curious about the automatic dispensers. I see some are very pricey, but we figure they are actually less expensive than adding the very basic medication management service at her senior housing building. What has been people's experience?

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Hi Elizabeth!
I work for the company that is mentioned below -- Omcare -- which is a medication dispenser that also allows video connection to loved ones and providers. And you're absolutely correct that they are actually way less expensive than medication management because it's a cost for the unit then a very inexpensive monthly subscription. Some medication management can run up to $100/day!

We haven't gone commercial yet, but if you're interested, I can get you on our email list to be notified when we do. And if your mother in law happens to be in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, she could be eligible to use our unit for free for three months as part of our pilot program.
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Reply to MorganMcKinsey
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My husband just sent me the website to this device created by someone he knows. I have never used one nor do I know anyone who has nor do I know the price BUT because there is a video component to it and it *seems* like the senior doesn't have to do much (or anything?) technologically, it may be a short-term solution for some families. There is no price on the website but thinking you lease the video/dispenser unit and there is probably a subscription of some sort. For the record neither my husband nor I receive any financial benefit from putting out this product to the forum. It's just FYI.

https://omcare.com
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Reply to Geaton777
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I don’t have any experience with automatic dispensers but do have concerns about expecting an elderly person to use them. Just because the med is dispensed is no guarantee it will be taken.

Mom had a bad habit of timing her medications to suit herself. When she moved to AL we chose to have them administer her meds. It was the best thing we ever did, Mom was taking her meds as orders because the nurse would wait to be sure she took each pill. No dropped pills, no lost pills left on plates and counters, no last minute dashes to the store to pick up a prescription she "just has to have" because she only has one pill left, etc. And the nurses could monitor her meds and make recommendations on stopping or adding meds.
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Reply to Frances73
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Imho, my late mother used the cassette system, but it was a failure as she would remove medications and place them on a saucer with a tissue covering it. She would also drop medications all over her floor and would never pick them up. The count was off. Even when I had to move in, she still messed the system up. Ugh.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Look on ebay and other online places, like Offerup, to see if you can find a used machine. Often estate sales have quite a few medical equipment items for sale. Give it a try before hiring someone to do it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work and you'll have to go with the med management.

Ask pharmacist which meds can be taken at the same time. Tell him you are going to try a dispenser and need 1 or 2 times a day to make it less confusing for her. It may turn out that everything can be done at one time. If that is the case, you might be able to order her meds from the drug store in prepackaged dated packages. Then set up some kind of alarm or coincide the time when you will call (if you talk to her each day).
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Reply to my2cents
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It kind of depends on your MILs state of mind. The automatic dispensers are great if someone just is forgetful about taking pills but if they are the type that gets easily distracted (takes the pills in hand but puts them down to grab the tea kettle) or just is at the point where they look at the pills but don't seem to take them.... well, then they can be pretty pricey and very much useless. You can of course also install cameras to see if the pills are taken but if the person get out of camera range or if you are 100 miles away even a phone call may not get them back on track.
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Reply to geddyupgo
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I bought my mom the MedElert a few years back. The cost was just under $100.00. You program it to coincide with how often your parent takes pills.
It's round with little compartments to put the pills in. When it's time to take a pill, it will ring to alert. It stops ringing when the pills are taken out...but will continue to ring for 1/2 hour if pills are not taken out. When it's time to take a pill again, it rotates around so that those particular pills can be dispensed. I bought it through Amazon. It was one of the best purchases I made to help make sure mom was taking her meds. Thankfully instructions for setting it up and programming it were very clear.
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Reply to Beatlefan
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Pro:
*Depending on how many times/day medication is needed, they can be set up for somewhere around 1-4 weeks (if more that 1 diff time/day, it uses up more slots. Mom only took 1x/day, so it was good for 1 month.)
*IF the person is capable/does take them, it reduces the need to stop in daily or hire someone to check.
*It does reduce the chances of the person over-medicating.

Con:
*As noted, battery can die, but replaced on a reg basis can avoid that
*It doesn't mean the person actually takes the medication

When we decided to bring in aides, it was initially only 1hr/day to check on mom and for them to check her medication (they can't dispense, but they can check the dispenser, point out missed medication and encourage the person to take it.) Secondary was to get her used to having someone there, with plans to increase time and care needed, so she could remain in her own place longer.

Before bringing in the aides, they sent a nurse who administered a test, in mom's place, with us there. I was already aware that early dementia was the issue, but this was confirmation (test was better than those a PCP uses and was more "comfortable" for mom, being in her own place, less threatening and 2 of us were there as additional "comfort" and to be aware of the results.) This was covered by Medicare. One of her recommendations was to use a dispenser, as mom wouldn't remember if she had taken them, could miss doses or take too many doses. This only worked for less than 2 months, because mom was adamant that she was fine, independent and could cook. She wasn't and couldn't. But, she refused to let them in. They even sent their "expert" to chat with her and that woman was lucky mom couldn't pick her up and throw her out!

So, I would say if it's just an elder who needs some assistance with taking medications, these can work well. If you're dealing with dementia, even the early stages, it can help, but it won't guarantee the medications are taken. IF there is another person living there, who IS capable, they can be the monitor/reminder.

Cameras can help, but unless the person takes the medications when dispensed, in view of the camera, you still have no idea whether they were taken. The one we got had visual and audible alarms, but again, if not heard or seen, or just ignored, they can still miss doses.

Once mom refused the aides, we had to start looking at MC places. She refused to consider moving ANYWHERE, but esp not AL! The dispenser was okay and she did take some, but there were missed doses.

It doesn't need to be top of the line (aka most expensive.) It all depends on the person this is for and what "backup" is available (a capable house mate, camera or person to check.)
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Reply to disgustedtoo
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Hi, I highly recommend Phillips Lifeline dispenser . They will do initial set up. it's easy to use. moms ran bout 70.00 per month. you get alerts if something goes wrong or meds not dispensed. However moms dementia got to the point where she would push the button to dispense meds then she would forget to take them or did not want to take them, hide them or throw them out. Just returned unit. So now i have to stop by (45 min away) 3 days a week and give her only 3 of her most needed meds. The Doc said something is better than nothing. Best wishes
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Reply to gizmo55
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I think they are fantastic, and a way to be able to keep Mom, who has alzheimers, at home longer vs Assisted Living or nursing home. The programmed dispenser alarms and lights up until it is turned over (dispensing the pills). She has one dispenser for morning pills and one for night pills. I live 1000 miles away, so I have a nurse come once every 28 days to refill. She also replaces the batteries each time, just to make sure they don't die.
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Reply to nancymoore8
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If your MIL takes blood pressure medication or digoxin, they should be managed by a living person. You don't want her taking her medications if her heart rate for blood pressure are out of whack.
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Reply to Taarna
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Frances73 Feb 20, 2021
Yes, that is why we had the AL administer for Mom. Her BP settled down after that.
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I tried numerous automatic dispensers and if there is a glitch, and you're not around, the whole system grinds to a halt. I had one of the most expensive ones on the market and returned it after 5 days, as Mom was confused by it and would call me as she couldn't remember if she took the pills or not and I had to recheck the unit. I found a nonelectronic pill dispenser that held up to 8 weeks of pills (8 separate weekly fillers). This way I filled it up and we could easily track if Mom took the pills based on the day of the week. Another issue with electronic dispensers, is that it becomes a problem when the doctor changes the prescription. With Mom, her coumadin med would change almost daily and I had to run over to the house to ensure she didn't take the former dose. Also tried the prepackaged meds from the pharmacy, and if the dosage changed, that was another issue. I also had a Nest camera in her home and used it to chat with her and "watch" her take her pills (for my peace of mind).
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Reply to pblise
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I bought and used MedReady for my dad when he was in Independent Living. It was a great device, simple to use and really helped him use his medications correctly. I would fill it and set it up. Then every morning a little alarm would sound so he would take his pills. It only allowed access to that day's pills so that he wouldn’t get confused. The one I bought could even be managed from my home and I could see if he took the pills or not. It could run on electricity or battery. Now that we no longer need it I would love to sell it. There are a lot of them on eBay.
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Reply to Harpcat
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Another good point IFS.
I think they are a good option for people with MCI or who just have a hard time remembering pill schedules, and perhaps for those with early dementia who can still function being on their own while the caregiver is at work, but they are in no way the solution for those who are not fully on board or for those with dementia who for whatever reason aren't being checked on daily or at least several times a week.
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Reply to cwillie
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Lilfarmer67 Feb 22, 2021
Same here, we bought one for my FIL when he lived alone that dispensed twice a day and had a voice alarm telling him to take his pills.

We still found many pills were still in the slots or on the floor. His dementia was just too progressed for him to use it.

Now that he is here, I hand them to him with a cup of water and watch to make sure he takes them
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I too have shopped the automatic dispensers and also a concern is if the person is taking all the pills.
Most dispensers I have seen run on batteries. No pills are dispensed if the battery is dead. Just a thought.
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Reply to InFamilyService
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Cwillie is correct: just because the pill comes out of the dispenser in the right amount on the right day, doesn't guarantee it will make it into your LO's mouth. My MIL had short-term memory problems. Over the phone I would "walk her through" opening up the pill case, getting the water, putting the pill in her mouth and then swallowing it. She would tell me she was doing it. When I went to her house I found the pill on the table. A dispenser may work for a limited time but it won't be a permanent solution.
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Reply to Geaton777
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Sorry I don't have any personal experience but one problem I have seen mentioned is that although medications are dispensed on schedule there is no way to be sure they are actually being taken, I imagine it wouldn't be unusual for someone to set them aside to get a drink or grab a snack and forget about them.
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Reply to cwillie
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Tothill Feb 20, 2021
Spot on. My late step fil had blister packed meds, after we learned that each morning he put a full days of meds in his shirt pocket and at the end of the day if his pocket was empty he figured he had taken them all.

But I would find them on the floor all over the condo.

The blister packs worked for sorting the meds, but he still dropped them from time to time and was always unaware of doing so. I know my Dad at 92 cannot pick up anything off the floor without using a grabber and he could not see a pill on the floor either.
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