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  • Karen McPhail, RN, MSN

Helpful ways to help those with dementia to take their medications

Often times getting those with dementia to take their medications can become a constant struggle for caregivers, sometimes resulting in an endless cycle of frustration for all. Here are some steps below to consider and perhaps help with this process:

1. Most important, stay calm and try to relax! Do not put too much pressure on yourself. Your loved one will pick up on this stress, sense that something is wrong, and start to feel unsettled.

2. Next, remember that It is all in the approach. Try to set yourself up for success! Make the environment calm, stress free, and without distractions. Pick a time of the day when you can take your time and not be pushy or rushed. Limit sounds, activity, visitors, etc. Approach your loved one after a pleasant activity or at a time of the day when they are happy. Keep things short and simple. Avoid long explanations or preaching, as these are not going to be effective ways to accomplish the task at hand! Sometimes just handing them a drink and their pills will be enough. Other times you may need to be more creative. However, as usual, keep interactions positive and explanations light and to the point.

3. Follow medications guidelines carefully. If needing to be taken with food or liquids, ensure that it is given after a meal or with a beverage. If not given properly and your loved one feels bad after taking the medication or it tastes terrible, they may be resistant the next time. Try crushing medications, dissolving and mixing or asking the pharmacist to make in a elixir form with a flavor that your loved one may enjoy! Always check to ensure that meds can be crushed before doing so! Then try mixing medications with traditional items that they may enjoy such as pudding, yogurt, applesauce, ice cream, or sherbet. Sometimes however these smooth items may not fit their need so try some items of different consistencies! These can include rice pudding, tapioca, and even jam! Jam can work well if you mix in a small, but adequate amount. It can be put on a cracker or biscuit and eaten too! Some people even enjoy meds mixed in small amount of cream of wheat or oatmeal! It all depends upon your loved ones tastes and preferences! Be creative! Edible chocolate chip cookie dough worked great for one of my clients recently! They sell these edible cookie dough cups in many grocery stores that are safe to eat :)

4. Make medication time a fun time that they enjoy and look forward to it possible. Consider offering a favorite treat or activity after taking medications!

5. Stay in tune to their behavior. Medications can cause side effects that they may be picking up on after taking medications, causing them resistance at med time! Talk with your doctor if you suspect this. Also ensure that you are doing good mouth care at home, checking for any sore areas, and that you are in tune to any dental or swallowing issues that may be impacting their behavior! Seek physician assistance and input if experiencing!

6. Finally keep it simple! Eliminate any medications that truly are not needed! Stick to the basics!!!! Inquire at physician appointments about necessary medications. Ask if any medications can be safely discontinued. Less is often more!

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