In the UK, someone develops dementia every three minutes; almost everyone knows someone whose life has been affected.
As there is currently no cure for dementia, many people living with the condition rely on medication that helps to reduce their symptoms and in some cases, slow down their progression. It’s important that drug treatments only make up one part of a person’s overall care, as activities like going for a walk or visiting friends, where possible, can also be beneficial.
Managing medication can be challenging, especially if there are several different types or if you are managing them for someone else.
If you or someone you know is living with dementia, Victoria Steele, head of clinical governance at LloydsPharmacy, a corporate supporter of leading dementia charity Alzheimer’s Society, suggests these five practical tips on how to best manage medication.
1. Keep medicines organised and in one place
An easy way to keep on top of medication is to keep all drugs in one safe place, ideally in a cupboard or drawer that can be locked. Often people with dementia will need to take more than one medication, so it might be useful to keep a written record of all current medicines including the name, date started and dosage.
Keep in mind when repeat prescriptions are dispensed, so that you or the person you care for doesn’t run out.
If you are spending a lot of time going between your GP and pharmacist, ask your doctors surgery to send your prescription straight to your pharmacist. It’s worth checking if your pharmacist provides home delivery services as well.
2. Make sure medication is taken correctly
If you or the person you are caring for has a complicated medicine regime that includes different pills that need to be taken at specific times during the day, ask your pharmacist to organise the tablets into dosette boxes.
These are easy to use plastic trays that are labelled to clearly show what pills need to be taken and when. Do make sure you are taking the tablets correctly such as with food or in-between meals, as it could stop them working correctly or it may cause side-effects.
3. Ask your pharmacist for a medicine use review
For long-term health conditions like dementia, pharmacists across England and Wales offer free medicine use reviews.
This is an opportunity to talk to a pharmacist in confidence about any concerns you or the person you care for may be having with their medication. It’s also a chance to check that medicines are being taken as prescribed or recommended.
If you care for someone living with dementia, make you sure try to attend the medicine use review with them, as it will help you to make sure that you also understand the dosage and when it needs to be taken.
4. Forgetting to take medicines
As dementia progresses, people living with the condition may forget to take their medication. If you find this is happening more and more, there are several things you can do to help them remember:
- Try writing down what medicine needs to be taken and at what time, or try phoning them to remind them.
- If you or the person you care for is assisted by a care worker, arrange for them to visit at the same time medication needs to be taken.
- Alternatively, pharmacists can offer advice on other ways to remember medicines.
5. Refusing to take medicines
Sometimes, people with dementia can refuse to take their prescribed medication. What’s really important is to not assume that the person is just being “difficult”.
There are lots of reasons why people may not want to take their medication, for instance, the tablets may be hard to swallow, not taste nice or cause side-effects like nausea.
If you find this situation occurs, the best thing to do is to speak with the person who prescribed the medication, as they may be able to prescribe it in a different form. For example, some dementia and painkiller tablets are available as a stick-on patch.
For more information and guidance on dementia drugs visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/treatments/drugs or speak to your GP or local pharmacist.