Keeping track of prescription medicines -- and taking them at the right
time -- doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips for keeping
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
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
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
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 healthcare professional's instructions.