People with Alzheimer's generally take a lot of medicine. Some drugs boost memory and cognition, while others help with mood, behavior and the many conditions that affect the elderly. Learn how caregivers can help ensure medication is taken safely and correctly.
There are 2 things that can be said about all FDA-approved medications:
- They help many people.
- They have side-effects.
Learn the BasicsKnow each medicine (prescription and over-the-counter) the person with Alzheimer's disease takes. Ask the doctor or pharmacist:
- Why is this medicine being used?
- What positive effects should I look for, and when?
- How long will the person need to take it?
- How much should he or she take each day?
- When does the person need to take the medicine?
- What if the person misses a dose?
- What are the side effects, and what can I do about them?
- Can this medicine cause problems if taken with other medicines?
People with Alzheimer's should be monitored when a new drug is started. Follow the doctor's instructions and report any unusual symptoms right away. Also, let the doctor know before adding or changing any medications.
Use Medicines SafelyPeople with Alzheimer's disease often need help taking their medicine. If the person lives alone, you may need to call and remind him or her or leave notes around the home. A pillbox allows you to put pills for each day in one place. Some pillboxes come with alarms that remind a person to take medicine.
Often, you will need to keep track of the person's medicines. You also will need to make sure the person takes the medicines or give the medicines to him or her.
Some people with Alzheimer's take medicines to treat behavior problems such as restlessness, anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, and aggression. Experts agree that medicines to treat behavior problems should be used only after other strategies that don't use medicine have been tried. Talk with the person's doctor about which medicines are safest and most effective. With these types of medicines, it is important to:
- Use the lowest dose possible
- Watch for side effects such as confusion and falls
- Allow the medicine a few weeks to take effect
Other Safety TipsSome people, especially those with late-stage Alzheimer's, may have trouble swallowing pills. In this case, ask the pharmacist if the medicine can be crushed or taken in liquid form. Other ways to make sure medicines are taken safely:
- Keep all medications locked up.
- Check that the label on each prescription bottle has the drug name and dose, patient's name, dosage frequency, and expiration date.
- Call the doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about any medicine.
The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center is a service of the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. The Center offers information and publications for families, caregivers, and professionals about Alzheimer's disease and age-related cognitive changes.
For more caregiving tips and other resources:
- Read "Caring for a Person with Alzheimer's Disease"
- Visit the NIA Alzheimer's Caregiving page
- Call the ADEAR Center toll-free: 1-800-438-4380
National Institute on Aging
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