Getting a loved one to remember to take their pills, or to agree to take them for that matter, can be a huge challenge when a person has dementia. Fortunately, there are solutions – including tactics you can use that may help – and a pill dispenser may also be a good idea.

My late mum, who had vascular dementia, used to think she didn’t need her tablets or sometimes she would think she had taken them for the day when I knew for a fact that she hadn’t had them.

At first, when she needed medication, I would call her and remind her to take the tablets when I was on the phone. I stayed on the phone while she took them. This was fine in the early stages of her dementia, as she could get them out of the pack by herself and take them – she only needed a gentle prompt from me to remind her.

A practical challenge

However, I could see that it was going to be a challenge and also not practical to expect her to take them every day and know that she had done so safely. I wanted to ensure that she took the right tablets at the right time so that she didn’t put her health at risk. I bought her a dosset box with different days of the week on and used to fill it up with a week’s worth of tablets when I visited her every Sunday. The idea was quite simple. She didn’t have to remember what to take, she just had to look at the relevant day of the week and take the tablets in that day. If the compartment marked ‘Monday’ was empty on Monday, then she’d had her tablets. It didn’t matter if she remembered taking them or not. What mattered was that she’d had them.

There were times when she didn’t want to take her tablets as she was insistent that she’d had them, but being able to check the day of the week on the dosset box and whether or not that day was empty would convince her she was mistaken.

Pill dispenser

If you are finding it a struggle to persuade your loved one to take their tablets, here are three tips that may help:

  • Find out if the person is having any side effects from the medication, such as dizziness, nausea or diarrhoea. If symptoms persist, speak to their GP.
  • Be concise with any instructions about taking tablets. Don’t be longwinded, and keep sentences short.
  • If you are with the person when they are taking their tablets, filter out distractions. Make sure they are in a calm and quiet environment so that they can’t get distracted by the TV or other people.

TabTime Medelert Pill Dispenser

Medication dispenser

If you aren’t with the person all the time, I would recommend getting them a pill dispenser. the TabTime Medelert, a lockable, automated pill dispenser with 28 compartments which can dispense tablets between one and six times per day. At pre-programmed times, the dispenser will rotate, and an alarm will go off. The correct dosage for the pill will appear through an opening in the lid. It is battery operated and has a low battery alert, so it won’t let you down. You can find more info here.