Managing Medicines

In the section on drug treatments you can read about the drugs which are most commonly used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. These are not available for vascular dementia unless the person has a diagnosis of ‘mixed dementia’, that is, has both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  The beneficial effects can last for several years but wear off over time.  This is because they do not stop the disease progressing in the brain, and therefore the condition can continue to deteriorate even though the person is still taking the medication.

People with dementia may experience other long term medical conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart conditions or digestive problems.   These medical problems may also require treatment with drugs.   All medication should be reviewed by the GP or community pharmacist on a regular basis to confirm whether continued prescribing is necessary.

Administering Medicines

People with dementia may be able to manage most activities of daily living including administering their own medicines.  Choice, respect and self-determination are all essential to maintaining self-esteem and independence.  If you are a carer you must consider whether the person with dementia is able to manage their own medication safely otherwise consider means of supporting them to manage any risk. Self-administration is when the person with dementia is able to manage their own medication independently.  They might need some gentle prompts like a calendar or diary. Community pharmacists can advise on products which can help with the self-administration of medicines. These include gadgets to help with opening bottles and blister packs.  Devices such as dosette boxes can also be purchased from community pharmacies. They usually have seven compartments in them for the days of the week and each day’s medication can be placed in the appropriate compartment, some also have sections for morning, lunchtime and evenings. It might be useful to get some support to fill these up. If the person with dementia is self-administering medication they should be able to understand the purpose of the medication, but it would be wise to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis.

Enabling Techniques

Means the person with dementia can still manage their medication but requires some support. Practical solutions include blister packs, see below for more information. If the person with dementia is forgetting to take important medication prompts can be provided by carers, family or friends. If the person has been assessed as requiring support with taking their medication this can be provided by the Local Authority through their Homecare Service.

Community Pharmacists provide a number of services to people who are assessed as requiring particular services, these include:

The NHS Chronic Medication Service – a service for people with a long-term condition.

The Minor Ailments Service –  for people who the criteria.

Repeat Prescription Service

Many pharmacies will offer a repeat prescription service for those who are on long term medication, this is where the pharmacy orders your prescriptions for you from your GP surgery and has them available for collection, in some instances they may also offer a delivery service too.

Blister Packs

These contain your regular daily tablets or capsules securely packed and sealed into a ready to use handy blister pack.  Blister packs allow you to remember to take your medications by giving you a visual indicator of when you last took your tablets and when your next dose is due. It also helps with remembering how many of each to take. Each of your blister packs are packed meticulously and are securely sealed to prevent loss and damage of your medication.

Controlling Pain

A person with dementia feels pain, just like anybody else and may experience painful conditions like arthritis.  However, they may not be able to tell you they are in pain. A person with dementia who has short-term memory may only be able to tell you that they are in pain at the time you ask.  They may not remember several minutes later, or the next day, but they could still be experiencing pain.  Look for non-verbal clues and learn about Communication and Dementia.  They may behave in an agitated manner or become withdrawn which a carer may find challenging so learn about dealing with Stressed and Distressed Behaviour. Some older people are prone to infections, including urinary tract infections, and this and other conditions can cause delirium (acute confused state), but like depression this can be treated with medication.  Understand the differences between Depression, Delirium and Dementia.

Take Your Medicine is a guide offering you advice on different ways of taking your medication.