Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Mystery of the DIsappearing Tablets

When you can't remember what tablets you're supposed to take and when, the doctor can arrange for them to arrive in something called a dosset box.

My mother has one of these. The pharmacist counts them out into the dosset box, and then delivers the next week's tablets, every Wednesday.

There's one little plastic box for every day of the week and it's divided into four compartments which are labelled Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Bedtime.

So far so good. Simple! But the trouble is, it's not really.

Firstly, the boxes are remarkably fiddly and I'm amazed that nobody's designed one that is easier for elderly hands to use.

Secondly - - well, taking Monday's tablets on the right day relies on you knowing which day is Monday. And the labels such as "Breakfast" don't help with tablets that have to be taken before meals, or after meals, rather than with meals.

So every day I get the little box out for the next day, and put it on Mum's kitchen table, and remind her that these are the tablets for the next day and she must ignore all the others in the big box. Then I close up the big box and put it to one side. I have often wanted to take it into safe custody at our house and just leave Mum the ones for that day - - but somehow, that's another little step away from independence, so I have left the big box there.

She isn't on a lot of tablets - just morning and evening - and she generally remembers the morning ones, as she's more alert then. In the evenings I go over to see her and so I remind her about the evening ones, and get her to take them then, if she hasn't already.

Last week, however, the doctor gave Mum a course of antibiotics: four a day, before meals. Impossible for her to remember, of course, but I have told Mum this about a dozen times, and counted each day's antibiotics into the dosset box, leaving the rest in the packet.

I can't be there for each mealtime - I just can't! - so every day I've counted out the tablets, gone on and on and ON about "the blue ones BEFORE MEALS" and put the rest to one side in their packet along with the "master" dosset box.

I'm not sure whether or not she has taken them before meals, but she does seem to have taken them, at least.

Tonight when I arrived she'd taken three of today's antibiotics, with one left to take, and that was fine - I got her to take it.

Then I looked for the packet to count out tomorrow's tablets. It was nowhere to be seen.

"Mum, where's the packet that these antibiotics came in? Little blue and white packet?"

She denied all knowledge. Had never seen such a packet in her life. Nope. Was I sure that such a packet had ever existed? She looked at me as though I was inventing the whole thing.

So I looked in the obvious places - - the drawers, her handbag - - and a few less obvious ones - - underneath the Radio Times - - in the fridge. Nothing.

"Perhaps I've finished them all," she said hopefully.

"I hope you haven't, Mum, because there's about three days' supply left," I said, whilst carrying on looking.

Then I had a brainwave. I looked in the bin and there was the empty packet.

I took it out of the bin. "Mum, here's the packet. Now where could you have put the tablets?"

She looked at me blankly, as if I'd brought a rabbit out of a hat. Clearly, she had no recollection of ever having seen the packet before in her life.

I was now rather worried that she had somehow scoffed the lot. But then I had Brainwave Number Two (which is not bad for a Thursday evening, I have to say).

She has a little purse which should really be labelled "Ill-Assorted Ancient Tablets Well Past Their Sell-By Date", which she insists on keeping and which I haven't had the heart to take away from her. She was a pharmacist's wife, for goodness' sake! She knows about tablets! - - Or used to, anyway.

Inside the purse were the rest of the antibiotics. Phewww.

I counted out the tablets for tomorrow and put them in the dosset box labelled Friday and explained about taking the blue ones before meals. I stayed - outwardly at least - both calm and cheerful.

"There you go, Mum. That's all you need to think about. Just take these tablets tomorrow."

"What about the rest of the ones in the packet?"

"Well, I think I'll take that back to our house, just to be sure, and I'll bring you some more tomorrow."

Tomorrow, when she's forgotten I took away the antibiotics, I'll be taking away the "master" dosset box. And when she's forgotten that I did that, I'll be kidnapping the purse with the Ill-Assorted Ancient Tablets Well Past their Sell-By Date.

She didn't seem to mind too much, though. Even that's a measure of how she's changing, day by day, week by week. The previous version of my mother would have resisted like crazy. It's a slippery slope, as the Communist would have said. And I hate it.


Anonymous Ruth said...

She is very lucky to have you. Although it's a trouble for you, it is also excellent that you are able to be there to do this (and so much else) for your mum.

7:05 am  
Blogger Jennyta said...

I know from when my mum was ill how heartbreaking this can be but, as Ruth says, she is so lucky to have you. Dad, who is still very much on the beam, managed to spend a week recently taking two of one medication and none of another and was complaining of feeling faint a lot before he checked and reaiised what he had done. It's all too easy when someone is on several types of medication. Luckily for him, no harm was done.

10:45 am  
Blogger Helsie said...

We are also dealing with elderley parents. At least your mother sounds sweet and compliant. Tony's mother gets nasty... often. Such a shame when you have final memories spoilt by nastiness.

11:48 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Your presence may be preventing a tragedy. I say go over there as often as you think necessary. "Independence" is a sham idol. We are all inter-dependent on one another.

4:36 pm  
Blogger Jan Blawat said...

I don't know how an elderly patient manages with antibiotics. I have trouble remembering them, too, they're very annoying. It's so interesting how differently people age, there's often no balance between physical and mental health, and it doesn't seem to matter how we've lived our lives. The older I get, the scarier it gets.

I think it's wonderful you're there for your mom.

5:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This flipping clock could be helpful:
It is one of life's mysteries: how are people with diminished memories supposed to remember to take tablets for people with diminished memories? Your mother is very lucky you are there to help her out.

5:52 pm  

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