Less Common Types of Medication and Alzheimer’s

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As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s goes on, they’ll most likely need to take medications. Most of these will be pills or liquids they take by mouth or patches you put directly on their skin. Less common types of medicine include suppositories, inhalers, eyedrops, and shots.

It can be tricky to help someone with Alzheimer’s take medicines. If your loved one gets upset when you try, go slow and tell them what you plan to do. You may also try to distract them with something like music, food, or something soft to hold.

Suppositories

These are doses of solid medicine mixed with gelatin and shaped into a pellet that you put into the rectum or vagina. Make sure your loved one doesn’t try to swallow one by mistake.

Always wear gloves and handle them carefully -- they can melt in your hand. If one is too soft, put it in the refrigerator before you use it. It can help to put petroleum jelly or another lubricant on the tip.

Inhalers

These handheld devices deliver medication as a spray your loved one breathes in. It’s important to follow the directions and check to see if you need to shake it before you use it.

It helps to give your loved one calm and simple directions. Say something like, “This is your inhaler that helps you breathe. Put your mouth around it, and take a deep breath.”

If they can’t time their breath with the puff of medication, press the inhaler yourself as they start to breathe in. If you still can’t time it right, ask your pharmacist for a tube you can attach to the inhaler, called a spacer. Your loved one puts their mouth on it, and when you press the inhaler, the medication collects in the tube until they take a breath.

You can also ask their doctor if they can use a nebulizer. That’s a machine that turns the medication into a mist your loved one breathes in through a mask. They can either wear the mask or you can hold it near their nose and mouth.

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Eyedrops

With these, you put liquid medicine in your loved one’s eye with a dropper. Be sure to wash your hands before and after.

Have them lie on their back with a pillow under their head so they’re comfortable. Gently pull down their lower eyelid and put one drop of the medication in the pocket of their lower lid. Be careful not to touch the dropper to their eye. That could injure their eye or move bacteria from the eye to the dropper.

If you have trouble, ask a pharmacist for an eyedrop aid or dispenser.

Shots

To give these, you use a needle and syringe to inject medicine under the skin. If your loved one needs medicine in this way, their doctor will show you how to do it.

Before you give the shot, make sure your loved one is calm. You may want to turn on the TV or play some music to distract them.

Sit down together and calmly tell them what you’re going to do. Be careful not to stick yourself with the needle. You could hurt yourself or get an infection.

If they won’t let you give it to them, talk to their doctor. It may be possible to give the medicine in another form, or a nurse might come to the house and give the shots.

WebMD Medical Reference in Collaboration with the Cecil G. Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 16, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Tips for Administering Eye Drops.”

Caring for the Ages: “Patients with Dementia Can Use Inhalers.”

American Journal of Nursing: “Administration of Subcutaneous Injections,” “Teaching Caregivers to Administer Eye Drops, Transdermal Patches, and Suppositories.”

Nursing Standard: “How to Administer Suppositories.”

Stow Health: “Supporting the Use of Medication in Care Settings: Carer Edition.”

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