Alzheimer’s and Taking Oral Medications

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 are likely to need medications. Most of these will be pills or liquids they take by mouth.

These are called oral medications, and some of them come in more than one form. If your loved one has trouble with one type, their doctor may be able to prescribe something else.

For example, they��might not recognize that a pill in their mouth is medicine and that they should swallow it. If this happens, you could ask their doctor or pharmacist if it comes in liquid form or in tablets that dissolve.

medications

Problems Taking Pills

If your loved one finds it hard to swallow a pill, there may be a physical reason. For example, if their mouth is dry, have them drink a little water, juice, or coffee first.

If that doesn't work and the medicine doesn't come in another form, ask the doctor or pharmacist if you can crush tablets or caplets, or open capsules and sprinkle the pellets into food or liquid. But you shouldn’t do this with medicines that dissolve over time, called sustained-release medications, so be sure to check first.

If the doctor or pharmacist says it’s OK, you can buy a pill crusher at a drugstore. You can also use a mortar and pestle or put the pill in a plastic bag and hit it with a hammer. Once you crush it into a powder, mix it into a small amount of applesauce, pudding, or yogurt. If the pill is bitter, they may not want to take it unless the food you mix it with covers up the taste.

If your loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, they may get upset if they find out that you put medicine in their food. In this case, it’s a good idea to talk with their doctor and have a backup plan to help them take it.

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 September 08, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

New York Times: “Can’t Swallow a Pill? There’s Help for That.”

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care: “Using Medication: Oral Medications.”

Today’s Caregiver: “Tips for Swallowing Pills.”

Stow Health: “Supporting the Use of Medication in Care Settings: Career Edition” (pdf).

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