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Medication Safety: Keeping Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s Safe

Today, the science of modern medicine has produced a variety of “wonder drugs” that can make us feel better – both physically and emotionally – and improve our daily lives. However, as in the case of most things, their many benefits also come with a potentially serious down side.

It is commonplace for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia to have multiple prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. For example, an individual might be taking medications for dementia, blood pressure, arthritis and depression at the same time, as well as other prescriptions that are frequently prescribed for older adults.

Therefore, it is important to keep medication safety in mind at all times. Prescription drugs can be very powerful, and it is essential for caregivers to take proper precautions to avoid medication-related problems, including serious drug interactions and overdose.

Ongoing Communications with the Doctor and Pharmacist is Vital

Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, says, “In addition to the sheer number of medications, another challenging fact is that oftentimes loved ones with Alzheimer's are under the care of several different doctors and allied health professionals, all of whom are providing prescriptions. Therefore, it is essential for caregivers to make all of their loved one’s health care providers aware of the various prescriptions and over-the-counter medications they are taking. This should include vitamin supplements and any holistic medicines, such as herbs, as well.”

“As a common practice, remember to take a list of their current medications and their dosages with you to doctor’s appointments and when you fill a prescription at the pharmacy. Be sure to ask the doctor or pharmacist to check for the possibility of drug interactions. Busy physicians can sometimes forget to check, thus it is important for you to be your loved one’s best healthcare advocate.”

To help caregivers become more knowledgeable about the risks, The National Institute on Aging provides an Alzheimer's Disease Medications Fact Sheet that lists popular Alzheimer’s medications, their purpose and common side effects.

Professional Advice for Safeguarding Your Loved One’s Medications Safely

The Mayo Clinic also offers several helpful tips for at-home caregivers to make sure your loved one receives their medications as safely as possible. Their article, Medication Errors: Cut Your Risk with These Tips provides key tips to remember, including:

  • Make a list – Keep an up-to-date list of all your medications, including nonprescription and herbal products.
  • Use a pillbox to organize their medications – A pillbox and/or a daily medication administration schedule can help ensure medication is taken as prescribed.
  • Store medications in their original labeled containers – Save the information sheets that come with them.
  • Develop a regular schedule for giving the medication – Ask the pharmacist if medications should be taken at a certain time of day or with our without food to plan accordingly. For example, create a plan to administer your loved one’s medications with breakfast or right before bed.
  • Use simple words and give clear instructions – For example, "Here is your pill for high blood pressure. Put it in your mouth and drink the water."
  • Keep the medications safe and out of your loved one’s reach – Place all medications in a locked place to avoid accidental overdose, and throw out medications that are no longer being used or have expired.
  • If your loved one has difficulty swallowing, find out if the medication is available in another form – Talk to the doctor who prescribed the medication or your pharmacist to find out if another form, a liquid version, is available.
  • Have emergency numbers easily accessible – In case of a medication emergency,keep the number of your local Poison Control Center or Emergency Room on hand. If you suspect a medication overdose, call Poison Control or 911 before taking any action.
  • If the person refuses to take the medication – Stop and try again later, but do not skip their medication. Talk to your doctor if this is a significant problem.

Despite the various public safeguards in place, thousands of medication errors still occur every year in prescribing, dispensing and administering medications in the United States. Therefore, be sure to take an active role in your loved one’s medical care and the various prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications they are taking.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about this blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences. Please share your thoughts in the comments section provided.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Our brand-new Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr community provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family,” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If, and when, the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5404, or contact us online.