Should I Have Control Over The Medications Given To My Loved One With Alzheimer's?

Dr. Mohana Karlekar answers the question: 'Taking Control of Loved One's Meds?'

ByMohana Karlekar, M.D., Medical Director, Palliative Care Program, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
November 19, 2008, 12:19 PM

May 4, 2009 -- Question: Should I have control over the medications given to my loved one with Alzheimer's?

Answer: Medications are these days very complicated. The more diseases you have the older you get the more medications that there are. And so, it's a very important thing to be able to guide a patient to make sure they take their medications properly.

Since Alzheimer's patients have difficulty with their short-term memory, it is very possible they're going to forget which medications they took. Now I know that if I have been given an antibiotic prescription that's four times a day, very often I forget if I've taken all my doses or not that day. So now imagine, having difficulty with your memory and not being able to recall which medication you've taken. Maybe you take two, maybe you take three of something which you should have taken only one or two. And so we have children, which are again those adults, explaining to their parents that, "Boy, I'm going to help you. I'm going to supervise what you're going to do."

So we recommend getting pillboxes and doing these medications together so people feel empowered that they are helping one another. And the burden isn't being taken away from someone but it's a shared responsibility. Going through and checking bottles to make sure that the medications that are being prescribed are being taken. And they're finishing out on a monthly basis, and the pills aren't filling up. So I think really having different levels of supervision depending on how much memory impairment is really there.

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