Giving Medicines

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Useful tips to help your family member take their medicines correctly and regularly

Dementia may affect your family member’s memory, mood and behaviour. You may find that your family member may not want to take their medicines.

If your family member has been able to look after their own medicines without help, for many years:

  • they may not want to ask for your help.
  • they may get angry with you for trying to help them with their medicines.
  • they may know they are making mistakes with their medicines but try to hide these mistakes.
  • they may forget what some or all of their medicines are for.

Included here are some helpful tips from other people who have looked after someone with dementia. Remember that some ideas may work well some days and not others.

  • If appropriate, take your own medicines at the same time as your family member. When they see you taking your medicines they may take theirs.
  • Put their medicines out at the same time as their meals, for example their morning medicines with breakfast.
  • If they refuse to take their medicines, distract your family member by doing something else for a short time and then try to give the medicines again.
  • If your family member finds it difficult to take many medicines all together, try giving their medicines in two or more separate groups.
  • Keep to the same medicine times that they are used to. This is particularly important if your family member has moved to a new place to live or has come home after being in hospital.
  • If your family member doesn’t like the taste or colour of their medicines, or has trouble swallowing medicines, ask the doctor or pharmacist if the medicines can be crushed. Alternatively, ask the doctor or pharmacist if the medicine can be given in a different formula, such as a liquid or patch on the skin.

Please note: only certain medicines can be safely crushed, which is why it is always important to check with the doctor or pharmacist before crushing medicine.

Crushed medicines can be hidden in foods that your family member likes, such as porridge, yoghurt, or mashed vegetables. Don’t use sweet foods to hide the medicine in if your family member has diabetes.

To make this job easier you can buy a pill crusher. Talk to your pharmacy or local Independent Living Centre (see section 5 for contact details) about the best one to buy for your needs.

Pill Crusher
Pill Crusher
  • Regularly check with your doctor that your family member still needs to take all of their medicines.

Some of the ideas suggested in this section might make it a little easier for you to look after medicines for your family member. You will know what will work best as you know your family member better than anyone else.

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Medicine Reminders

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Consider medicine reminders

There are a number of products that can be used to help your family member remember to take their medicines. These are helpful especially if there is no-one available to check on your family member through the day.

  • Electronic Medicine Reminder Pill Boxes can be set up to give a reminder alarm when it is time to take each medicine.

    Electronic pill boxes
    Electronic pill boxes
  • The ‘Cadex Medicine Reminder Watch’ has the date and time in large type on the watch face. It will give a reminder alarm and the name of the medicine will show on the watch face when the medicine needs to be taken.

    Cadex Medicine Reminder Watch
    Cadex Medicine Reminder Watch
  • The ‘Blue Phone’ is a phone that can be set up to remind your family member to take their medicines.
  • The ‘Careousel Automated Medicine Dispenser’ has a flashing light or alarm when medicine is due. The medicines are released from the Careousel by moving the inside section around to the opening and turning the unit upside down over their hand or into a bowl.

    Careousel Medicine dispenser
    Careousel Medicine dispenser

Talk with your family member to see which medicine reminder they would be happy to use. For more information contact your local pharmacist or the Independent Living Centre (ILC) in your state (see section 5).

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Something to watch out for

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Something to watch out for

Blister packs are helpful, but your family member may still get confused when using them. Look at the pack each week to check if your family member is taking the right medicines at the right time.

Some family members might find it hard to get the medicines out of the blister pack. If this happens, then talk to staff at the local pharmacy or the nearest Independent Living Centre (ILC) to get information about tools to help them, such as a Pil-Bob (See section 5 for contact details for your nearest ILC)

Pill boo
Pill bob
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Blister Pack Benefits

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Other benefits of blister packs

  • Your family member may find it easier to get tablets out of a blister pack rather than trying to open lids on medicine bottles.
  • It is easy to see if medicines have been taken.
  • An up-to-date list of your family member’s medicines is written on the blister pack.
  • Sometimes the pharmacist can translate some of the words on the blister pack if your family member cannot read English.
  • Your pharmacist can remind you or your family member when you need to get another prescription for the medicines in the pack.
  • If your family member needs to take their medicines while they are at a day respite centre, you will need to send the medicine in a blister pack or the original packaging from the pharmacy.
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Blister packs

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Ask the pharmacist about blister packs (e.g. Webster-paks)

Medicines can be packed by the local pharmacist in blister packs (e.g. Webster-paks). These blister packs usually contain one week’s supply of medicines. The pack is labelled with each day of the week and has four spaces for medicines each day. This is a safe way to organise your family member’s medicines and is a good choice if your family member is taking many medicines at different times in the day.

Blister Boxes
Blister Boxes
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Using Boxes

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Organise medicines into boxes you can pack yourself

You or your family member can pack medicines in special boxes available from the pharmacy. These boxes, sometimes called pill boxes or dosette boxes, make it easier for your family member to know which medicines to take and when to take them. You may need to help your family member put their tablets in the boxes each week.

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Organising Medicines

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How to make sure your family member’s medicines are taken at the right time

There are a number of ways you can help your family member remember to take the right medicine at the right time. The ideas listed here may help your family member to remember which tablets to take when.

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Use a Translation Service

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Use a translation service when needed

You or your family member may need to use the telephone interpreting service to help you understand information about medicines.

  • The Australian Government provides a free interpreting service to non-English speaking people visiting their doctor or pharmacist.
  • Doctors and pharmacists need to register to be able to use this service.
  • If your family member’s doctor or pharmacist is not registered for the telephone interpreting service, you can ask them to register.

For more information about this service:

Telephone 131450

or visit the website:

Free interpreting services

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Generic Medicines

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Understand generic medicines

When you go to get a prescription filled, the pharmacist might ask if your family member would like the same medicine but at a cheaper price. These are called generic medicines because the active ingredient is the same as their usual brand of medicine even though the tablet colour, shape, size and packaging may be different.

If your family member is given a generic medicine, it will still work in the same way, give the same benefits and have the same possible side effects as their usual brand. If you think your family member has been given a generic brand of their medicine instead of their usual brand of medicine, look at the medicine label and check for two names on the packet. One of these names is the brand name usually written in large print. The other name, usually written below the brand name, is the active ingredient which makes the medicine work. Check that the name of the active ingredient is the same on the generic brand as it is on your family member’s usual brand. Only the brand name will be different on the two packets.

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