Handling Medications and Finances

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, activities that involve more complex thinking skills will become more of a concern. Problems with handling finances and medications  are often areas that will likely call for assistance and/or supervision.

Some things to think about:


1. Often families are not aware of the difficulties a person with memory loss or confusion may have with taking medications or even supplements.
2. The person may be asked if they are having problems and say they are fine while mistakes in setting them up or taking them as prescribed are happening. If the meds are not set up in weekly pill boxes it is harder to track what is happening.
3. When medications are changed frequently, the person who might have been managing them easily may have a lot more difficulty. Sometimes mistakes are not detected until there has been a crisis.
4. Then there are the challenges opening the bottles or reading the labels. Often old prescription bottles with unused medications are kept around and can be mistaken for the updated dosage.
5. With memory loss a person can forget they took their medications or thought they did when they had not. There are also certain foods which need to be avoided when some medications are taken. While that may have been done initially, sometimes it is too much information to handle without supervision.


1. This is another area where someone may be totally in charge of their affairs. Sometimes there are errors being made or checkbooks are no longer being balanced but others are unaware of the subtle changes that are taking place.
2. Bills may be paid more than once or not being paid at all. There may be turn off notices sent and yet not always addressed. Someone with memory loss may no longer be able to handle what was easy for them before especially if something has changed.
3. Investing is another area where I have heard of older adults making unwise decisions with long term impact on their overall financial picture. When there are concerns about memory but there is no one else on the account, the investment person may have no other option but to do what their client requested.
4. If a person is having vision problems or tremors, being able to write the correct amounts can be an issue. If the person now has problems spelling or word retrieval problems, they could be writing the wrong information. If a person is doing online banking, a whole other lists of concerns is likely to emerge without others being aware there should be any concerns.
5. If an older adult, with or without cognitive issues, is subjected to some level of  fraud but unaware of the implications, financial repercussions can be extensive.

Tips to consider:


1. Medications may need supervision to assure safety. If a person is on pain medications and told to take them at certain times with daily limitations, there can be problems and someone may need to be in charge of dispersing those.
2. It may be helpful if medications are switched to pill boxes or a system with reminders so they learn the new system sooner when new learning is not such a challenge.
3.  It may be necessary to only give the person their meds when it is time to take them. If someone is likely to be moving pills around, they will need to be locked up.
4.  If a person is having trouble swallowing pills, remember to check with the pharmacy to make sure pills can be crushed. Others will benefit from taking them with applesauce or pudding and only one at a time. Mention this to the doctor because there may be some other changes involving swallowing and an assessment may be beneficial especially if the person is coughing or choking on foods or liquids, even only once in awhile.


1. Discussions ahead of time are helpful about what a loved one would want you to do if they had to be hospitalized for a period of time. If a financial Power of Attorney has not been designated, it might be beneficial to initiate changes before a crisis occurs.
2.  Suggest that a person with memory loss, even if it is mild, allow you accompany them to meetings just to listen and act as a sounding board if needed. If the person will agree to this, it may lend you more insights into their overall capacity to process financial information that is more complicated.
3. No one wants to take away a person’s financial independence so perhaps they will agree that you do it together. They can write the checks but ask that you just double check them. Online banking is another concern and a system will need to be set up to check what is happening since putting in a wrong amount is not uncommon.
4. Here is another concern. With all the pin numbers and passwords, someone may need to have this needed information the event that a person is no longer able to recall these details.


When you are with a person who is showing changes in memory take the time, with the above information as a guide, to observe more carefully what is happening. If proactive steps are taken, it is possible to avert some situations that can have more serious consequences. When others share with you concerns about a loved one, pass along this information to help them better process what might be happening.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” Charles Dickens

Link to “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  cable television show: Handling Medications and Finances. (PROGRAM LINK)

Further resources: Gift ideas and products to enhance time spent together including reminiscence puzzles and conversation starters. Click here for more ideas about CREATING TIME WELL SPENT.

About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters (www.memoryfitnessmatters.com) and Communication Connection(www.connectionsincommunication.com). She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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