Alzheimer’s and Medications on the Skin

WebMD Medical Reference in Collaboration with the Cecil G. Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Logo for UNC Chapel Hill, Cecil G. Sheps Center

People who have Alzheimer’s disease are likely to need medications. Most of these will probably be pills, but some may go on body surfaces, like the skin, the lining of the nose, or the vagina. These medicines come in several different forms.

Ointments leave a greasy surface so the skin doesn’t get dry. They typically don’t seep far into the skin and are commonly used in the eyes and nose.

Pastes are thicker than ointments and soak into the skin slowly. They’re used only on the outside of the body.

Creams can be rubbed into the skin and are absorbed more easily than ointments or pastes. These are used on the skin or in the vagina.

Transdermal patches are discs or patches with medication that are left in place on the skin. The medication slowly goes into the skin and then throughout the body. Patches usually stay on for 1 to 3 days.

Caregiver Tips

Remember that these are medications, so follow instructions carefully and wear gloves so they don’t get on your skin. Before you put handle them, put on gloves and then remove any previous patches or gently wash the area with soap and water to get rid of any medication you put on earlier. It won’t work as well if you put new medicine over old.

Watch for signs of skin irritation in the places where you put them. It can help to put patches in different places each time.

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:

ATI Nursing Education: “Topical Medications.”

Division of Dermatology, University of British Columbia: “Principles of Skin Therapy.”

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

Nursing: “Using Transdermal Drug Patches for Older Adults.”

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

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