Tag Archives: caregivers

Dementia and Medication Distribution–a Daily Challenge for the Caregiver

Small pill organizer

By Larry Peterson

In America, one in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s Disease. (Alzheimer’s Disease is only one of many types of dementia. There are also other types, such as Vascular Dementia or Lewy Body Dementia and many others). Please note: There is no “magic” pill that can cure Alzheimer’s Disease.

Since I was the caregiver for my wife, Marty, who had this insidious illness, I thought I could share some of my experience in dealing with the medication factor. It was a challenge, to say the least, because the meds were being constantly adjusted and oftentimes changed to something different.

Medicine distribution by the caregiver could be the most critical factor in a person’s quality of life. Medications are powerful and, if used as directed, cannot only prolong the patient’s life but can also help maintain a better quality of life for a longer period of time. Please note: There is no “magic pill” that cures Alzheimer’s Disease.

My first tip is, and I believe this may be the best tip I can give anyone: You called a plumber when you had a broken water pipe so now you have called a doctor for a damaged loved one. You need their expertise and you should expect crisp, clear answers to any questions you may have. Whether or not the patient is your spouse, child, parent, grandparent or old Aunt Lucille, never be afraid to ask a question.

Alzheimer’s Disease presents in three general stages; early stage (mild), middle-stage (moderate), and late-stage (severe). During the early stages, the patient will still be able to interact with you about the medications they are receiving. However, as time goes by, invariably these meds will change and increase in dosages. In addition, the patient will start to lose the ability to understand what is going on. That is when your responsibility begins moving into high gear especially when it comes to med distribution.

Marty suffered from several illnesses. Besides Alzheimer’s Disease, she was recovering from cancer, (Lymphoma),  had A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation is a leading cause of strokes) and a severely broken ankle. This required the involvement of not only her primary care doctor but also an oncologist, a cardiologist, and an orthopedist. They had all prescribed different meds.

The first time you are presented with a bag of various medications it can be an intimidating experience. You look in the bag and see a bunch of vials and a packet of paperwork. The paperwork includes individual explanations and descriptions of each of the meds in the bag. Take a breath, stand each vial on the table or counter and match each one to its corresponding paperwork.

Next step is to make a list of every one of the meds, the dosage of each, and how many times a day it is supposed to be given. (FYI–the letter X denotes times per day so a 3X means three times a day). I entered my list into a word.doc format and stored it on my computer. This way it was easy to update as doses and meds were changed by the doctors. I also printed copies out and always had one with me when visiting one of the doctors or making a visit to the hospital.

The next thing you MUST do for yourself is to purchase a pill box organizer. These are (in my opinion–indispensable). Since I had to distribute meds 4X a day I purchased an organizer that had four rows of seven-day pockets with snap-lock lids. I also had an organizer that had two rows of seven pockets which I used for vitamin supplements.

Once a week, usually on a Saturday evening, I would clear the table and spread the medicine vials out. After several weeks I began to know exactly where everything was supposed to go. For example; Furosemide (a water pill aka Lasix) could only be given on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Coumadin (a blood thinner, was given in doses of  6mg  4X a week and 7.5 mg 3X a week). The pillbox organizer made it quite simple to separate these meds properly into their designated days.

Once the pill box organizer was filled I was ready for the week ahead. When Sunday morning came the routine started all over. I just had to open the Sunday morning box and take out those pills and give them to my patient. Then it was off to Mass.

©Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson