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    Dementia Symptoms & Caregiver Strategies: Giving Medication to Someone with Cognitive Impairment

    A person with cognitive impairment may require help remembering to take medications. A caregiver may find it helpful to:

    • Use a pill box organizer.
      Using a pill box or keeping a daily list or calendar can help ensure medication is taken as prescribed. You can also put color-coded labels on medicine bottles indicating days of the week or times of the day medications should be taken.
    • Develop a routine for giving the medication.
      Ask the pharmacist if medications should be taken at a certain time of day or with our without food. Then create a daily ritual associating the taking of medications to activities. For example, take the blue pill after breakfast and the white one at dinner.
    • Set up reminders using your cell phone’s alarm for the right timing of taking your pills.
    As cognitive abilities decline, caregivers frequently need to be more involved with medication management. In addition to using a pill box organizer and keeping a daily routine, the following tips may be helpful:
    • Use simple language and clear instructions.
      For example, say "Here's the pill for your high blood pressure. Put it on your tongue and drink some water."
    • If the person refuses to take the medication, stop and try again later.
    • If swallowing is a problem, ask if the medication is available in another form.
      Talk to the doctor who prescribed the medication or the pharmacist to find out if a liquid version is available or if it is safe to crush the medication and mix it with food. Be aware that no pill or tablet should be crushed without first consulting your physician or pharmacist, since it can cause some medications to be ineffective or unsafe.
    • Make changes for safety.
      Be sure to place medications in a locked drawer or cabinet to avoid accidental overdose, and throw out medications that are no longer being used or that have expired.
    • Have emergency numbers easily accessible.
      Keep the number of your local poison control center or emergency room handy. If you suspect a medication overdose, call poison control or 911 before taking any action.

    Cognitive Impairment can have many causes. The patient’s doctor should be consulted to determine a specific diagnosis and treatment options. But whatever the cause, the symptoms are often alike, and the Caregiver Strategies are often similar.

    The information in the resources listed above was compiled by the Ray Dolby Brain Health Center through clinical experience and commonly available published materials. For information on additional Caregiver Strategies, go to: