At the pharmacy

  • make sure you can read and understand the medicine name and the directions on the container. If the label is hard to read, ask your pharmacist to use larger type. If you are unable to read, ask the pharmacist to tell you how to take the medicine.
  • check that you can open and close the container before you leave the pharmacy. If you cannot, let the pharmacist know.
  • check the label on your medicine before leaving the pharmacy to make sure that it is for the correct person and with the correct directions prescribed by the doctor or sister. If not, tell the pharmacist.

At home


  • keep a daily checklist of all the medicines you take.
  • include both prescription and OTC medicines.
  • note the name of each medicine, the doctor who prescribed it, the amount you take, and the times of day you take it. Keep a copy in your medicine cabinet and one in your wallet or diary.
  • read and save any written information that comes with the medicine. Check the label on your medicine before taking it to make sure that it is for you or for the person to whom you are giving it.
  • take medicine in the exact prescribed amount and at the right time. Medicines will be more effective if they are taken exactly as prescribed by the doctor, in the correct dose and monitored regularly for side-effects.
  • check the expiry dates on the medicines and throw away medicine that has expired.
  • speak to the doctor or clinic if you have any problems with your medicines or if you are worried that the medicine might not be right for you. It may be necessary to change your medicine to another one.

Do not

  • take medicines prescribed for another person or give yours to someone else.
  • stop taking medication that has been prescribed for you unless your doctor says it’s okay — even if you are feeling better.
  • mix alcohol and medicine unless your doctor says it’s okay. Some medicines may not work well or may make you sick if taken with alcohol.
  • expect immediate results. Benefits may take several weeks to appear, particularly with anti-depressants.
  • take the person with dementia to the clinic as well as his or her own doctor and/or psychiatrist. This can result in “polyscripting”, with extensive side effects and even death.

At the doctor’s

  • ensure that the medication is reviewed every two months, as it should be for elderly persons.
  • take all medications to clinic and hospital appointments.
  • tell/remind your doctor if other medications or treatments are being taken. Be aware if person is taking alternative treatments e.g. purgatives (make you vomit).
  • tell the doctor/clinic if the medication is not being taken and the reasons why.
  • go over your medicine record with the doctor or nurse at every visit and whenever your doctor prescribes new medicine. Your doctor may have new information about your medicines that might be important to you.
  • always tell your doctor or nurse about past problems you have had with medicines, such as rashes, indigestion, dizziness or not feeling hungry.
  • always ask your doctor or nurse about the right way to take any medicine before you start to use it.
  • ask the doctor why the medicine is being prescribed.
  • ask the doctor what side-effects to expect as they may occur early or late in the course of treatment. All medicines have side-effects which may make the symptoms/behaviour worse. Side-effects are usually related to the dose. The doctor will usually ‘start low and go slow’, gradually increasing the dose until the desired effects are achieved.
  • ask these questions (and write down the answers) before leaving your doctor’s office:
    – What is the name of the medicine and why am I taking it?
    – What is the name of the condition this medicine will treat?
    – How does this medicine work?
    – How often should I take it?
    – How long will it take to work?
    – How will I know if this medicine is working?
    – How can I expect to feel once I start taking this medicine?
    – When should I take it? As needed? Before, with or between meals? At bedtime?
    – If I forget to take it, what should I do?
    – What side-effects might I expect? Should I report them?
    – How long will I have to take it?
    – Can this medicine be taken with the other medicines that I am taking now?
    – If I don’t take medicine, is there anything else that would work as well?