• Deb Trotter

Dementia Patient Murders Pill Dispenser

Death of The Pill Dispenser ©Becky Sweet 2020

This is not a pretty picture.

If this were a movie, the above photo would fade in to a close up. Within five seconds, the picture would begin pulsating off and on - as if it were a strobe light assaulting your senses, compelling you to flee your seat in the movie theatre and run to the bathroom to vomit.

At least that's what it felt like to me when I opened my email recently, and this same photo bounced up at me from my computer screen. It was sent by my sister, who took the photograph on her phone.

What is it a photo of, you may wonder? If you say pills (at least in part), you'd be right.

The large pill dispenser. The handwritten notes, both with pills sitting on top of them. And above all, the knife. All sitting on top of my mother's dining room table. Not sure where the screwdriver is.

You read me right -- the screwdriver. But, I digress.

These are not the things dreams are made of, my friends. These are things that make up only a small amount of the nightmare that is called Dementia.


You see, my siblings (Bryan and Becky) and I had been struggling to find a clever way for our mom to take her medication on her own, safely and easily. Her caregiver, Dottie, had been giving them to her twice a day. But there were, occasionally, times when she was unable to do so, ( Bryan and Becky couldn't always be there, and I live out of state. )

After much discussion among friends and family (who had struggled with the same issue) - and after searching the internet extensively - my brother found the perfect answer in a giant pill dispenser made for people suffering from memory issues and dementia.

The giant pill dispenser, as seen in the above photo, seemed like the perfect solution. The one we purchased was similar to this model, and had all the bells and whistles we felt were perfect for our mother:

  1. a double lock so she couldn't open it herself (it dispenses the meds only at the time the dispenser is programmed for)

  2. up to 24 daily alarms with sound and visual notification on when to take her meds

  3. a user-selectable alert duration from 5 minutes to 5 hours which is silenced upon dispensing

  4. a doses remaining indicator, a dispensing log, a battery indicator and an early dose option in case she had to travel somewhere and would otherwise miss her next dose

  5. it also adjusts for daylight savings time automatically

If you follow the link supplied above, you'll be taken to the website of this pill dispenser.

You may even decide to purchase one for your loved one. But before you do, hear me out, because if the person you buy it for happens to be like my mom, you will have made a big (and expensive) mistake.


After he received the pill dispenser, my brother went over the instructions three times on Friday with mom while Dottie (her caregiver) was there, then called Mom and repeated the instructions the next day when Dottie was out of town.,

Late that afternoon, my sister, Becky, stopped by mom's to see how the pill dispenser was working, The featured photo shows what she discovered when she walked in the door ... a broken (er, strike that, not broken) ... a destroyed $389.95 pill dispenser.

Mom had taken a dining knife, as seen the the same photo, and, with the help of a screwdriver, had forced open said dispenser.

(Can you picture it at the movies? Mom slashing at the pill dispenser with a knife and screwdriver, while the music from the famous Shower Scene from Psycho blares in the background?)

Then, she'd removed at least half of the monthly pill supply and had created her own form of a homemade pill organizer. She would act as her own dispenser, by God! Which of course, did not work. Not. At. All.

Study the picture below. See those two-toned (pink and red) pills that she's written all around on the paper? Becky asked mom to explain her notes -- could she understand what her notes meant?

Nope. She'd already become confused and couldn't recall how many pills she had already taken, what times she had taken them, and why she'd mutilated the $389.95 pill dispenser.

My brother, Bryan, tried to repair the wonder-of-wonders-dispenser, but the costly bugger was completely ruined. Besides, it was not going to work for mother. All it did was frustrate her.


None of us said anything to our mother about it. The purchase of the dispenser had been our idea. Our mistake.

Because we love her, we wanted so, so badly to allow her the independence she so desperately wanted. It just wasn't in the cards.

Mom's caregiver, Dottie, had warned us the dispenser probably wouldn't work for mom, "Shirley's not like most dementia patients," she'd said, "She's mighty stubborn."

Mighty stubborn is putting it mildly. Mom has always been stubborn, even before she was visited by the dementia fairy. What in the world were we thinking?

We'd set her up for failure by failing to recognize - or believe - that her personality, her I-can-do-it-myself-and-don't-try to-convince-me-otherwise attitude were not suited to that pill dispenser.

Live and learn, folks. Live. And. Learn.

Just be certain to LOVE as you learn. Love like there's no tomorrow. Because that's all we can share with our loved ones living with Dementia.

The next "featured film" will be of my siblings and I, appearing in the Dementia-related-blockbuster, Three Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

The Give-Up-Your-Car-Before-You-Kill-Somebody proposal was even worse than the wonder-of-wonders pill dispenser. But that's a Dementia story for another time.

Do you have a Dementia story to share? Feel free to contact me or leave your request in the comments.

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