Palm Beach Angels Healthy Aging & Home Care Blog


Managing Medications in DementiaAdministering medications to a loved one with dementia can be challenging because they have to be administered daily – and often several times a day, most likely with food and within a specific time frame. In cases of cognitive impairment, when a loved one refuses the very thing that will make them better, anger and frustration can run high on both sides. Complicating matters further are the facts that:

  1. Your loved one may be refusing because they are confused or don’t understand what the medication is for,
  2. They resist due to the fact they don’t like the medicine’s taste or its side effects, or
  3. They are angry you are making them do something they don’t want to which is prompting feelings of loss of control.

Are there are way too many pills, is dosing complicated, are you and your loved one feeling overwhelmed? Here are some helpful hints to managing medications in instances of refusal due to dementia:

  1. Stay calm, if you are frustrated or angry they will react in kind.
  2. Never try to force the medications, stop and then try again in 15 minutes.
  3. Don’t go into a lengthy explanation of what the medicine is for and why it is important. Keep it short and sweet and give the pill with a big glass of water.
  4. Perhaps demonstrate what you want them to do, or pretend to take a pill yourself (use a vitamin).
  5. If the pill is too large or difficult to swallow, check with the physician about an alternative or liquid.
  6. Be alert to side effects from the medicine, dental problems, or a urinary tract infection which might be affecting their behavior.
  7. Keep things that trigger distress to a minimum when it is time for medication.
  8. Check with the doctor to see if you can adjust their medication schedule to the times of day when they’re in the best mood.
  9. Stick to a routine when giving the medications – same time and in the same place each day, or always right after the meal.
  10. Consider giving them a treat for taking their medication as a reward. It might even help with the bad aftertaste!

If gentile coaxing throughout the day doesn’t work, talk to the doctor and review all the prescriptions your loved one is taking – perhaps some are no longer needed, perhaps the dose or frequency can be changed. Be cognizant of whether the medications are to be taken with or without food, and make sure your loved one stays hydrated. Remember many drugs interact with each other as well as with certain foods. As a person ages their metabolism slows and overdosing or mis-dosing can be extremely toxic so you have to be extremely careful. For more practical every day tips on how to manage medications safely, read our previous blog post here:

If your loved one is resistant to taking their prescriptions, a caregiver or companion from Visiting Angels can be of great help at home, making sure your parent or spouse is taking their pills and watching for medication side effects as well. They can prepare a meal or a snack if the prescription is to be taken with food. When you are beyond frustrated, too tired to argue, and your relationship with your loved one begins to suffer, that’s when an “Angel” can save the day as a neutral party. In situations like these our caregivers and companions are trained to distract rather than react, and can provide proper care throughout the day, especially at medication time, to give you peace of mind.

Till Next Time!

Irv Seldin, JD, President and Owner, Visiting Angels of the Palm Beaches

This article is not intended as medical advice.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.