How do I get my Alzheimer's MIL to take her pills and get dressed?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 17, 2016
Emilyprl asked...

My mother-in-law has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's however I find her declining in memory fairly quickly. She just turned 60 and initially was told it was "faux dementia" onset by depression. The main issue at the moment is getting her to take her meds (approx 8 pills at a time) and even to dress herself. Any suggestions will be much appreciated. I have offered to take her overnight 1 day a week so that my father in law can have a break, I am worried that he too may fall ill from the stress of caring for her.

Expert Answers

Merrily Orsini, MSSW, was a pioneer in the business of providing geriatric care managed in-home care. She currently serves on the board of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice and is Chair of the Private Duty Homecare Association. She holds a master's degree in social work and is a nationally known writer and speaker on aging, elder issues, and in-home care.

Caring for a rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer's patient necessitates understanding of the disease. First she really needs a thorough screening from a specialist in geriatrics so the diagnosis can be clear. If it is depression masking as dementia then medication will help and she can be functional again. If it is early onset Alzheimer's then there are home modifications and behavioral training for the care team that need to happen. Plus plans for long term care in an environment where she can be safe can be made.

A specialist in geriatrics needs to look at that medication. Why is she taking 8 pills? What other medical complications does she have and is the medication working against her or for her?

Alzheimer's, if she does have Alzheimer's, keeps the mind from working to do things in sequence or rationally. People with Alzheimer's forget how to dress, how to cook, what things are for, what words mean what. So expecting her to take pills and dress herself is unrealistic if she does have the disease. It is imperative for anyone who cares for a person with Alzheimer's to become familiar with how to talk to her, how to get her to do things, how to avoid conflict, and how to be soothing and reassuring. Her world, if she has Alzheimer's, is a scary place to be. Her world, if she is depressed and needs medication, is a place from which she needs help to escape.