Aging Parents: Problems Swallowing Pills? Here’s Help.

Milk? Tomato Juice? Pill Cutter?

Prescriptions for pills–more prevalent as people grow old. Yet before we are old, many of us are accustomed to taking non-prescription pills–some large, like Calcium. Perhaps that’s the time we learn whether swallowing pills is easy for us.

I never thought about pills causing anyone difficulty….until Mother, who had osteoporosis, couldn’t swallow Calcium pills. “Purchase a pill cutter” and “take them with a liquid heavier liquid than water, like tomato juice or milk,” was the advice. The heavier liquid solved the problem, although we’d already purchased a pill cutter (which we discontinued using). That was a decade ago. Chewable calcium has now solved that problem for many.

One in three people vomit, gag, or choke when swallowing pills, according to the Harvard Health blog’s post/article about swallowing pills (see sidebar for recent article or click link). Pharmaceutical companies, aware of the problem, have manufactured pills in many easier-to-swallow forms than those chalky white aspirins of decades past. Yet this hasn’t solved the problem for many.

While the article offers two “tricks” (which seem a bit odd to me) and the warning “Don’t try these alone,” plus other suggestions, there is professional explanation–with diagram– of how swallowing works and can be evaluated (some people suffer from dysphagia). The Comments section (at the very bottom following the post) offers additional simple “tricks,” and one reader who said the “tricks” worked.

It’s human nature to avoid doing something that’s difficult or unpleasant, we know this. We also know it’s easy for older people to forget to take their medications. Can avoidance subconsciously enter into forgetfulness? In any case, avoiding an important medication because taking it is difficult or unpleasant, can only encourage the problems the medication is prescribed to prevent.

Remembering and suggesting the swallowing tips is another way we can be helpful–as we try to help parents age well.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical stuff–to help parents age well.

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