Elderly Medication Article

Elderly Help: Medication 

When should I help a loved one?

Helping someone with their medication can be challenging, especially if they have a number of different medications. More so if you are caring for a person with dementia who might refuse to take their medication. Before providing medication support, find out:

Do they remember to take their medication?

We all have medications prescribed to us throughout our lives and we mostly remember when to take them. However, it's normal to forget to take medication occasionally. Just because a person forgets once or twice a week this doesn't mean they need your help.

There are lots of ways to support people to remember their medication:

  • Ask for a medication review with their doctor or pharmacist to check that all their medications are still required and effective.
  • Use a dosette box that can be filled with weekly medication and is separated into 4 daily containers.
  • If the person you help has a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri then use the assistant to remind the person to take their medications.
  • Set a reminder on their phone when medication needs to be taken.
  • Use large display clocks that show the person the day, date, and time and if it's morning, lunch, teatime, or bedtime.
  • Ask the pharmacy for a Medication Administration Chart which can be used to record when medication has been taken.
  • If the person takes four or more tablets a day the Pilltime can arrange for the tablets to be arranged into pouches labelled with dose, date and time which can all be delivered to your home for free.
  • Get a white board and write instructions down about what to take and when.
  • Try using simple signs around the home to remind them what time to take their medication or use a diary.
  • Help the person taking medication to establish a good routine. Add "taking medication" into their morning/evening routine. Find out if the medication can be taken with meals so that this becomes part of the mealtime routine.
  • Check with their doctor if the medication times are necessary or if they can be changed so that all medication is taken just once per day or reduced to just twice a day making it easier to remember.

Remember their rights

If your loved one cannot reliably remember to take medication, then they may need your assistance. Remember that people have the right to confidentiality and a right to refuse medication if they wish.

Can they take the medication from the packets independently?

Ask your loved one to take the medication from the original packaging and see how easy or difficult this is for them. If they find this difficult then a dosette box might be easier for them to manage and will also show them the time of day to take medication or use a pill popper which can be bought online. Their pharmacist may be able to provide weekly dosette boxes (blister packs) but not all medications are suitable for this, and the NHS service is not always free.

Don't be tempted to place the tablets on a plate or tray to be taken later on as this may lead to confusion and even too many medications being taken all at once. Don't hide or disguise medication in food or drinks.

Need further help?

If you cannot support the person to take medication on a daily basis, then speak to your doctor who should be able to refer your loved one to Adult Social Services. They can organise home carers to visit and provide support with medication including taking the medication from packets and reminding people when to take them. You can also contact home care services directly and ask for a care assessment.

Join our discussion about elderly medication in our Facebook group, Care Begins at Home for ongoing advice and support from experts.