Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Elderly Mother Mixing Up Medications

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother has been living in an independent community for elders for a couple of years now. Recently I have noticed that my mother gets her medications mixed up.

We went on a trip together, and she said she had organized all of her medication, but it turned out not to be true at all. She has serious medical issues that require her to take medication at specific times. While she is not yet ready for assisted living, which is very expensive, she does seem to need help taking her medicine on time. What can I do to help her? I cannot come to be with her twice a day, but somebody needs to. -- Mother Needs Help

DEAR MOTHER NEEDS HELP: One of the most challenging and common concerns for elders as they age is medication management. Often, they have multiple pills to take at varying times of the day. This would be hard for a younger person to keep track of; as people get older, memory often is not as sharp as it once was, even if the person is not suffering from dementia. Organizing medication can be confusing.

There are a number of options that can support your mother. You can look into getting her a medical organization system that features alarms for each time of day. Some of them will open a compartment only when the medication is to be taken. There is a new service called that will fill prescriptions and organize pills into clearly marked plastic bags that delineate what to take and when.

Depending on how well your mother manages with these types of support, you may also need to hire someone to come in and administer meds at various times in the day. You can talk to her independent living facility to see if it has recommendations on nurses or others who may be able to support your mother.

DEAR HARRIETTE: In a letter published in late January, an individual wrote to you asking if he could deposit a check he had received as a Christmas gift the previous year and had recently found. You said, “Shred that check and chalk it up to your mistake.” You also said, “Sadly, many people misplace gift checks.”

That being said, I feel the person should explain the situation to the gift-giver. He should show the gift-giver the outdated check, apologize and explain that is why a thank-you note was never sent. Then let the matter drop. The ball is in the gift-giver’s court as to what he wants to do -- if anything. -- Lost Gift Check

DEAR LOST GIFT CHECK: Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I like the idea of letting the gift-giver know that the reason you did not send a thank-you note is because you just discovered the check. That allows closure to an awkward situation. I’m not sure that it’s a great idea to present the check to the person, however. That puts pressure on the gift-giver to write a new check. Who knows what that person’s financial situation is a whole year later? The gift was intended at the time it was given. Letting the person know that you just discovered it and that you apologize for misplacing it and not saying thanks is enough in my book.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)