When it happens
Mild- to moderate-stage dementia
Why it happens
Immediate memory is impaired. The person may forget to take the medication altogether, skip doses, or forget that medicine was already taken and take it twice.
What you can do
Because medication mistakes are a classic early symptom of dementia, it's important to treat them as a warning sign to begin monitoring the person's medication use.
Switch to a day-of-the-week pill dispenser. (There are also versions for a.m./p.m.) Even people without memory problems find them convenient -- and safer. Some versions lock or have self-timers.
Consider telephone reminders for people early in the disease. (Over time, however, this is not a reliable way to monitor medication use. You need a visual check --seeing the person take the drug or using a dispenser.) Enter telephone based medication reminder In your favorite search engine.
Look into medication reminders that are built into other high-tech monitoring systems.
Whatever dispenser you choose, make pill-taking part of the daily routine by linking it to another habit: the breakfast orange juice, or brushing teeth, for example.
Make sure you understand what each drug being taken is used for and the proper dosing schedule, as well as possible side effects (especially for new meds).
Keep a master list of medications taken. Keep it in your wallet so you have it handy at doctor visits. In the event of hospitalization or an appointment with a specialist, you may be the only person with the complete drug picture.
Lock up or store out of reach all extra medications or other household members' prescriptions, so they don't get mixed up.
"¢ Bring all prescription drugs, supplements, and other over-the-counter meds used regularly, in their original containers, to the next primary-care checkup. Ask for a drug review to assess whether each is still needed or not. The fewer meds taken, the fewer to be remembered (and the fewer possible side effects).