Keeping your medications organized

Description

If you take a lot of different medicines, you may find it hard to keep them straight. You may forget to take your medicine, take the wrong dose, or take them at the wrong time. 

Learn some tips to make taking all of your medicines easier.

Create an Organizing System that Works for You

Create an organizing system to help you decrease mistakes with your medicine. Here are some suggestions. 

USE A PILL ORGANIZER 

You can buy a pill organizer at the drug store or online. There are many different kinds. Ask the pharmacist to help pick out an organizer that will work best for you. 

Things to think about when choosing a pill organizer:

  • The number of days -- 7, 14, or 28-day size.
  • The number of compartments for each day -- 1, 2, 3, or 4 compartments. 
  • For example, if you take medicine 4 times each day, you can use a 7-day pill organizer with 4 compartments for each day (morning, noon, evening, bedtime). Fill the pill organizer to last 7 days. Some pill organizers let you “snap out” one day’s worth of pills. You can use this if you are out all day. You can also use a different 7-day pill organizer for the four times of the day. Label each one with the time of day.  

USE AN AUTOMATIC PILL DISPENSER 

You can buy an automatic pill dispenser online. These dispensers:

  • Hold 7 - 28 days worth of pills.
  • Dispense pills automatically up to 4 times per day. 
  • Have a blinking light and an audio alarm to remind you to take your pills. 
  • Run on batteries. Change the batteries regularly. 
  • Need to be filled with your medicine. You can fill it yourself, or have a trusted friend, relative, or pharmacist fill the dispenser. 
  • Do not allow you to take the medicine out. This can be a problem if you are going out. 

USE COLOR MARKS ON YOUR MEDICINE BOTTLES 

Use a color marker to mark your medicines by the time of day that you take them. For example: 

  • Put a green mark on bottles of medicines that you take at breakfast.
  • Put a red mark on bottles of medicines that you take at lunch.
  • Put a blue mark on bottles of medicines that you take at dinner.
  • Put an orange mark on bottles of medicines that you take at bedtime. 

CREATE A MEDICINE RECORD 

List the medicine, what time you take it, and leave a place to check off when you take each medicine.

Know Your Medicines

Put on the list any prescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins, herbs, and supplements that you take. Include the:

  • Name of the medicine
  • The dose
  • What it does
  • When you take it
  • Any side effects

Use a Regular Doctor and Pharmacist

Bring the list and your medicines in their bottles to your doctor appointments and when you go to the pharmacy.

  • When you know your doctor and your pharmacist, you will find it easier to talk to them. You want good communication about your medicines. 
  • Review your drug list with your doctor or pharmacist. 
  • Ask if there are any problems with taking any of your medicines together.
  • Know what to do if you miss your dose. Most of the time, you move on and take the next dose when it is due. You don’t take a double dose. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor when you are: 

  • Not sure what to do if you missed or forgot your medicine. 
  • Having trouble remembering to take your medicine. 
  • Having trouble with taking a lot of medicine. Your doctor may be able to cut back on some of your medicine.

Review Date: 8/25/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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