Ending Medication Madness

Ending Medication Madness

Schwarz, Shelley Peterman

Tips for taking those pesky pills properly.

Dear Readers:

Most of us take a variety of prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies, such as aspirin or antihistamines. Trying to remember what you’re taking, why you’re taking it, when to take it (once a day, once a week, morning, noon, night), and exactly how to take it (with food, on an empty stomach, right before bed) can be complicated and confusing.

But never fear-you can put a cap on medication madness. Below are tips that can simplify the process of taking medications and give your over-stimulated memory a rest.

Hide in plain sight

To remember to take a medication first thing in the morning, put the pill bottle somewhere you won’t miss it. If you start the day with a cup of coffee, for example, put your medications inside your favorite coffee cup or on top of the coffee sweetener.

Don’t drink coffee? Put your pills or pill bottles in your favorite cereal bowl. If you abstain from early morning food and drink, you’ve got to get creative. Put your pills near the pet food-your pet would never let you forget to feed her. Or, put the pill bottle in your slipper; you’ll either step on it as a reminder, or you’ll have to remove the pill bottle before you can put on your slippers.

Create a no-fail system

Help your memory do its job by creating a no-fail system with built-in reminders for taking medications.

One idea is to save the cotton from a brand-new prescription bottle when you open it. Set aside the number of pills you’ll need to take that day. Then replace the cotton in the bottle, laying the selected pills on top of it. With this system, pills stay in their original container, and you can tell at a glance whether you took your daily dose or not.

Another easy, inexpensive solution is probably available in your kitchen right now. First, label zipper-closing plastic bags with the days of the week. Then, line up all of your pill bottles on the counter. Place your daily medications in each appropriate bag. You’re set for the week!

Splurge on a handy gadget

If your medication regimen is extremely complex (with different pills having to be taken at different times), then the sandwich-bag system alone probably won’t cut it. It might be worth your while to purchase a 7-day pill organizer.

Good models have seven daily cases, each with four separate compartments for sorting morning, noon, evening, and bedtime medications. All seven cases fit into a tray for tidy and organized storage, but each day also individually snaps out so you can carry your medications with you in your pocket or purse. Such a pill organizer is available from the Aids for Arthritis Inc. catalog (Phone: (609) 654-6918; http://www. aidsforarthritis.com/).

Another option for patients with a complicated pill regimen: purchase a wristwatch with an alarm that can remind you when to take each of your medications. MeDose offers a medication reminder waleh that uses either vibration or sound to remind the wearer up to six times a day to take his or her medicine (Phone: (800) 549-0095; http://www. epill.com/medose.html).

If you have difficulty reading the tiny print on medicine bottles or have trouble understanding English, you may want to purchase a Talking Rx(TM) device for each of your prescription medicine bottles. This inexpensive gadget (cost: $20) allows you, your pharmacist, or a family member to easily record a spoken message with instructions on how to take the medication. To hear the dosage instructions, you simply press the red button on the device. This technology is available from Easy Street Co. (Phone: (800) 959-3279; http://www. easystreetco.com/)

If pills aren’t the problem

Do you have difficulty remembering what the doctor tells you about the medication you’re taking? Take along plain, self-adhesive stick-on labels when you go to the doctor’s office. Write on a label what the doctor tells you about the medication and stick it on the bottle when you get the prescription filled.

You might also find it handy to keep a list of all of the different medications you take in a notebook. Bring this notebook along every time you see a doctor. If a doctor has comments about a particular medication you’re taking, you can jot them down in your notebook.

Finally, here’s a good tip to remember when taking medication that requires you to drink a lot of water each day. Keep track of the amount you drink by filling an empty gallon jug or four 16-ounce bottles with water at the beginning of each day. Make sure you keep taking drinks until the supply is gone.

If you cannot easily lift and pour a full container, put an empty gallon container next to the sink, and every time you drink a fresh glass of water, pour an equal amount into the gallon container. When the gallon is filled, you will know you have consumed your quota for the day.

With a little forethought and planning, you’ll soon be taking all of those pesky pills properly!

Shelley Peterman Schwartz has a free, monthly Meeting Life’s Challenges e-zine, an electronic magazine delivered through e-mail, for people who are living with chronic illnesses. The goal of the e-zine is to become a forum for sharing information and Web links that will help people dealing with chronic illness, their families, and caregivers to move forward despite significant challenges. To subscribe, send an e-mail to subscribe@MeetingLifesChallenges.com or visit www.MeetingLifesChallenges.com.

Copyright Springhouse Corporation Nov/Dec 2004

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