Keeping track of prescription medicines -- and taking them at the right time -- doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips for keeping medicines organized.
Many older adults are prescribed multiple prescription medications, and over time they can run into problems keeping them in order. Christopher Rose, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at Covenant Health Partners in Lubbock, knows the pitfalls of prescription management, and offers a number of tips for taking medicines safely, and on time.
“As patients get older, they typically get prescribed more medications," says Dr. Rose, "and the more drugs they take, the greater the chance that they’ll accidentally take the wrong one, or the wrong dose. This can result in dangerous side effects or interactions.” Dr. Rose notes that these problems can be largely avoided by getting organized, and seeing to it that one’s doctors and pharmacist are all on the same page. “Your medical team and your family should know all about the prescription drugs you’re taking."
Use these tips as a guide for managing multiple medications, and download our printable prescription chart (see link below)!
Keeping Medications Organized
Make a list of your medications. Write or print out a list of all your medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter. This list should be shared with family and a copy should be carried with you. Next to each medication, write out what it’s for and the dosage information. Take the list with you when visiting the doctor and your pharmacist.
Read and file the information sheet that comes with each medication. “After you read the printed sheet that comes with your prescription, put it in a special place where you can find it easily,” says Dr. Rose. “This way, if you have questions about side effects or dosage, you or your family will always have the information handy.”
Stick to one pharmacy. It is best to have all of your medications filled at the same pharmacy, so that the pharmacist can keep track of them for you – and alert you to any possible drug interactions. This also helps your doctor know where to order your prescriptions and make sure they’re filled properly.
Taking Medications on Schedule
If you’re taking more than one prescription medication, it is all too easy to forget a dose. Ask your doctor which is the best time to take each prescription medication, then use these reminder techniques to help you stay on schedule:
Establish a routine. Staying on schedule can be as simple as getting into the routine of taking medication when you wake up, go to bed or at mealtimes. If you are taking more than one or two medications, you may need extra reminders, like the following:
Use a pill organizer. Plastic pill boxes that have separate compartments for days of the week are inexpensive and easy to use. These can eliminate any confusion about whether you’ve taken your medication yet or not. There are even electronic pill organizers that sound an alarm when it’s time to take medication.
Use a medicine calendar or chart. A visual calendar is a great way for some to stick to their medication schedule.
Here is a chart you can print out and tape on the wall for reference.
This can help you keep track of which medicines you are taking, what they look like, what they’re used for, and proper dosage:
For some, using medication tracking software can simplify the process even more. There are apps available for phones and tablets that are easy to read and use. And if health issues make it difficult to remember what time it is, a medical alert company can place reminder calls when it’s time to take the next dose. If you have additional questions about the best way to keep medicines organized, your doctor and pharmacist will be happy to help.
“To help prevent medicine mixups, you should also dispose of unused prescription medicine,” says Dr. Rose. “In addition, old or expired medicine can cause unexpected side effects. It needs to be disposed of properly as soon as it is not on your medication schedule anymore.”
Finally, Dr. Rose recommends that patients and their families need to always go over their medicines regularly with their doctor. “Pharmacists are good sources of information, but your primary care physician can take the time to gather all the facts needed to keep you healthy. This means talking about the types of food you eat, and the non-prescription medications you are also taking, so you avoid the hidden dangers of mixing certain substances. Stay organized and informed, and you can maintain your medication schedule without worry.”
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.