I am having great difficulty in getting my mom to take her medications. Any advice?

It is not uncommon to face challenges when giving medications to an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is helpful to avoid a battle of wills or angry, hostile encounters. Keep in mind that the resistance of an affected individual to take medications may initiate out of fear or anxiety, and the problem behaviors are actually attempts by the individual to communicate, so try to look at the situation from his or her perspective. Your mother’s resistance might be caused by her loss of control so anxiety and opposition is to be expected.

When trying to give your mom her medication(s), make sure the environment is calm with few distractions, like television or radio noise. You might want to play some soft music and have a nice lavender aroma filtering through the room to help put her at ease. If your mom still maintains some cognitive skills, guide her through the process — getting water to take the pills, putting them in her hand, asking her to put them in her mouth to swallow, etc. If the pills are hard to swallow, crush them and mix them with a food like applesauce or yogurt. Make sure you consult a physician before crushing them.

When difficulties arise in giving medication, try engaging is some social exchange first. Be very positive (including a friendly facial expression) and talk about the pleasant aspects of the day, compliment her on something — her clothing or her smile. This may improve her mood and provide some trust between you, making the process easier.

However, if her mood does not change and she begins to get very angry or anxious, wait awhile and try again. You may want to take a short walk with her or enjoy a short activity before approaching her again about taking her pills.

Another strategy in giving medications is reward driven. Offering a special outing, a favorite food or an enjoyable activity may make her more amiable to taking her medications.

She might be comfortable or trust someone more than you. If so, this person should give her the medications. The familiarity and confidence she has in this person might eliminate the fear or confusion she is experiencing about what she is supposed to do.

As the disease progresses, her behaviors will change and strategies that have worked in taking her medications for a period of time may cease to work.

You will have to adapt or adjust in making “pill time” successful for the both of you.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.