SERIES: Why Can’t Caregiving be Simple? (Doctors & Medication)


This is a three part series.  Today’s topic is about doctors and medication. It would be great if just moving dad into an assisted living community solved all the issues.  It would be great if you could just hire one good caregiver to move in with mom.  It would be great if the primary care doctor your husband loves could just prescribe the right combination of medications to solve his mood and behavior outbursts.  It’s just not that simple. 

Why just getting the doctor to prescribe the right medications doesn’t always work.

  1. Your primary care physician may not be the right doctor for this. I know you love him or her and have been seeing her/him for decades and he knows your children and your trust her implicitly, but that doesn’t mean this primary care doctor is the best one to prescribe psychiatric or dementia related medications.  In our experience, a neurologist is best equipped to provide a detailed analysis of the specific disease affecting your loved one, a neuropsychologist is best at describing how that disease is specifically affecting your loved one via a neuro-psych exam, and a geriatric psychiatrist is best at prescribing and monitoring the medications when behaviors are causing safety or interpersonal concerns.
  2. Finding the “right” medication is difficult. In general, medicine is a science, but there is still so much we don’t know, especially about the brain, dementia and mental health.  Even with drug-gene testing, finding the medication that works best for your loved one, is usually a trial and error experiment.  It can take months and during that time you may feel like nothing is happening or your loved one may get worse or sick from the medication.  Many of the medications used to treat mood disorders have “black box warnings” because of serious side effects in the elderly population. When your loved one’s ability to think or speak clearly is impaired, it can be hard to know if benefits are outweighing any side effects. 
  3. When the disease progresses. Just when you think you’ve found the right concoction, the disease changes and you need something different.
  4. Environment, level of stimulation and approach usually matter more. There is no doubt that medication is helpful in managing anxiety, mood and pain.  But we don’t yet have a pill that will stop or fix the memory loss, self-awareness deficits, or other impaired cognition.  What we do have is a lot of knowledge about how changing the environment and our approach makes a big difference:
  • Environment- tracking the time of day when your loved is having challenges will help you narrow down what might be causing it.  Maybe it’s too bright, or they are too hot, or too cold, or it always happens when a certain caregiver is working, or always when he’s wearing a certain shirt.
  • Stimulation – because everyday for someone with short-term memory loss is like the first day on a new job, it can be very stressful. Some individuals find this exciting and become over stimulated, irritable and/or nervous.  Others withdraw or shutdown.  Finding the right balance for your loved one takes and time and patience.
  • Approach – Teepa Snow has created what is universally accepted as the best training for caregivers on the topic of approach, called Positive Approach to Care. You can click here to watch her videos that describe the most effective ways to approach care with someone with dementia.  

Creating a system of care for your aging loved one is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  

Each of the pieces provide little meaning on their own, but together make the whole picture.  Someone who has worked the puzzle hundreds of times is always going to do it faster than a first timer.  An Aging Life Care Professional™, like the team at LifeLinks, can help you organize all the pieces of your puzzle into a clearer picture.

Click here to read the LifeLinks Solution to each of these incomplete solutions. (how a LifeLinks Aging Life Care Professionals™ saves the family time and money by completing the solution)

Click here to read more about why just hiring one good caregiver doesn’t always work.

Click here to read more about why just moving to assisted living doesn’t always work.





Gretchen Napier joined the LifeLinks team to fulfill her passion for caring for aging adults, and affecting change for the geriatric care service industry. At a very young age, Gretchen volunteered by painting fingernails for the residents in a nursing home, where she witnessed firsthand the shortcomings and “one-size-fits-all” mentality of many organizations and individuals serving seniors. With many years of experience as an assisted living administrator and a publisher of a resource guide for seniors, Gretchen saw how easy it was for aging adults to fall through the cracks of the healthcare system.  Additionally, she saw how long-distance and broken family relationships make caring for an aging loved one an overwhelming task.  This inspired Gretchen to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families across America by growing LifeLinks. In addition to the community leadership roles listed below, Gretchen is raising a 13 year old son and carrying out her vision for LifeLinks every day.