Managing and tracking medication can be a challenge, and the more medications a person needs, the more difficult that challenge becomes. With the average person over the age of 65 taking nearly 14 prescriptions a year on average, medication management is more important than ever as we age.
The effects of not taking medication regularly, or at the correct frequency can vary greatly depending upon the medications in question, but can lead to unnecessary hospital stays, illness, and even death. Finding medication tracking systems and tools that help make your life easier can be time consuming, but here are a few tips and suggestions.
- Creating a medication chart is a basic first step. You should have a master list of prescribed medications, when they were started and when they will end, the purpose of the medication, the dose and other instructions (take on an empty stomach or take with food) and the prescribing doctor’s name and phone number. It is important to keep this list updated with the most current information, since some medicines can create health issues if taken together. Bring this list with you to every doctor appointment so your doctor can see what you are currently taking before prescribing another medicine.
- Once you have a master list created, create a weekly medication chart. Keeping track of medications charts are widely available at no cost on the internet. A good chart will have a daily medicine planner or row for each medication with dosage and other instructions, the time of day it is supposed to be taken, and a place for each day, to mark that it was taken. We like the one that is included in the Caregivers Organizer from Care For Aging Parents.
Once you have your medication charts organized, it’s time to gather your medications, and sort them in a way that will be simple to dispense. Different people find different methods helpful. The simple methods may be enough for some people, but people with dementia or people that take many medications may need more help.
- A simple strategy to use to ensure medications are being taken at the correct time of day is to put medications in different colored bottles for different times of the day. You might use a green bottle for the morning, a yellow bottle for lunch time and a red bottle for evening medications. Using a strategy like this is best if there are fewer medications, but it is simple and can make daily medication taking less complicated.
- If you have many medications that are taken throughout the day, it may be better to use a pill organizer or pill reminder box, also called a Dossett box, and sort each medication by day and time it should be taken, being careful to separate medications that should be taken on an empty stomach, from medications that should be taken with food. These boxes are widely available at your local pharmacy, but Amazon also carries a wide range of pill sorting boxes. Some of these Dossett boxes with alarms can even help remind you that it’s time to take your medication.
- For people who need more help, automatic pill dispensers are available online as well. Medications can be loaded into the dispenser, and then programmed to dispense at the appropriate time of day. Some of these dispensers come with flashing lights, for the hearing impaired, and monitoring via a landline modem or wireless module that can call emergency numbers that you program into the device, in the event the medications are not taken.
- Most pharmacies also offer multi-dose packages (prepackaged prescriptions) that group medications that need to be taken together marked with the day and time. This can be a great convenience and very useful, but don’t order too many in advance, in case medications change.
- You can use a medication app, which are widely available on the app marketplace. These medication log apps for medication lists can be programmed with each medication, the time of day, food or empty stomach and other criteria. They can alert you at medication time, and they can track when medications are taken or missed.
Using a medication tracking method is always a good idea when many medications are prescribed, but creating medication reminders for dementia patients and medication reminders for the elderly are especially important. If your family needs more help making a decision on tracking medication for your loved one, medication management services for seniors and other patients is a specialty of ours. Contact us for medication management help!