Many of my clients caring for elderly parents struggle with the fact that their parent has a tough time remembering what medications they are taking and what the purpose is for each medication that they are prescribed. Many seniors are taking multiple medications, with doses sometimes several times throughout the day. The truth is that as we age our memory frequently declines, which can make it challenging to remember all of the details of our daily routines. However, it is critical that patients are taking the proper medications, because their health may be adversely affected.
I believe that helping our patients understand why they take certain medications keeps them involved in their own care and also helps them remember to take them, and typically provide the following recommendations to help patients remember to take their medications:
1. Give the patient an updated list of his/her medications each time they are seen by a medical provider and explain how to take them. In addition, briefly describe what the medication is used for. A short description such as “Blood Pressure” or “Cholesterol” is sufficient so that the patient is able to recall why they are taking it. Make sure this list is in large font and easy to read. Laminating the list makes it more durable. Patients should post this list on the refrigerator or in a location near their medications so that they have it for easy reference. Each time a change is made to one or more of the patient’s medications, a new list is made and given to the patient. If the change is done over the phone – the list should be mailed or emailed to the patient. I routinely give my patients a copy of their updated medication list on a USB device which is carried with them daily. If they go to another medical provider or hospital, they can easily access their updated medication list on their USB drive – it is also available to be stored “in the cloud” – i.e. on a secure website, if they prefer not to carry it with them.
2. Put medicine in a location of the home that your parent visits often. – Next to the coffee maker or water dispenser, or next to the sink in the bathroom are all good places and the bottles serve as visual reminders.
3. Review your parent’s medication bottles at each visit. If you visit the patient at their home or office, look at each bottle and make sure the medication is on the patient’s list and also in the patient’s chart. If this is done at each visit, errors can be avoided, especially if an old or outdated prescription is being used by the patient. At this time, new prescriptions can be issued before the patient runs out of the medication.
4. Pill Boxes and Dispensers are a simple and relatively affordable tool that has proven to work well as it allows you to plan dosage and also track consumption. Most pill boxes can be purchased at a pharmacy and are typically under $5. Some of the higher-end pill boxes also feature built in reminders.
5. Prescription bottle alarms or reminder devices are increasingly available, which can alert them that they are due to take their medicine. Some of these bottle caps glow, and/or give a sound alert reminder. They also have bottle caps which can send a text message to the patient’s phone or an email that can be a great reminder for the tech-savvy patient. One company that produces these prescription bottle caps is: Vitality – and they make GlowCaps. A simple alarm functionality on a cell phone or a calendar meeting reminder also works well.
6. There are also a set of new Mobile Applications designed for the iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices that help you track and manage medications. A few of the noteworthy ones to check out are: iPills, Pillbox, Pillboxer, and The Pill Phone.
Remembering to take medications appropriately can be challenging, but caregivers can help patients do this with simple tools and a little extra time.
This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient. If you have questions please contact your medical provider.
I hope that you have found this information useful. Wishing you the best of health,
Scott Rennie, DO