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Page Reviewed / Updated – January 25, 2021

Many seniors have a large list of prescription medications that they must take each day to maintain their health. Remembering to take the right medications at the right time is essential, but can be tricky for those who have several pills to deal with, each due to be taken at different times of the day.

Fortunately, there are strategies that can be used to make maintaining a precise medication regimen easier.

Why Is Managing Your Prescriptions So Important?

According to the CDC, 69% of adults in the United States between the ages of 40 and 79 are taking at least one prescription medication. Common medications include antidepressants, lipid-lowering drugs, ACE inhibitors and, for those aged 60 and over, beta-blockers and antidiabetic agents.

These medications are powerful but may have complex interactions with other drugs and severe side-effects. In addition, certain drugs, such as lipid-lowering ones and medications to treat diabetes, are life-saving treatments.

Taking too much of a drug can be seriously harmful and in some cases fatal. Missing doses may make the drug less effective, allowing the disease that the drug manages to progress, again with harmful consequences.

How to Stay on Top of Your Prescriptions

Those who are prescribed just one medication may find it easy to just set an alarm or get into the habit of taking their medication with meals. When someone is required to take multiple medications, however, this strategy is not always enough to prevent confusion.

A more systematic and structured approach could help:

  • Keep all your medications, supplements and pills in one place: Ideally, medications should be kept in a cool, dry cabinet, out of direct sunlight and out of reach of pets or children. Keep the information sheets that came with the pills as well.
  • Write out a list of what to take and when: Speak to a doctor about the medications and supplements on the list, even including ‘natural remedies’ to ensure all the drugs are safe to take and do not interact with each other in potentially dangerous ways.
  • Use a pill box with multiple compartments per day to pre-partition medications: At the start of each week, count out the medications into a pill box that has multiple compartments for each day. Many pill boxes have large labels and color coding to help people stick to a routine.
  • Set alarms for when medication is due: Use alarms as a reminder to take the pills in the next pill box.
  • Use smartphone or smartwatch alerts: Tech-savvy seniors may wish to go a step further with diary notes or alerts on a smartphone.
  • Sign up for a prescription renewal service: Use a repeat prescription service to sign up for prescription deliveries, reducing the risk of running out of important medications.

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Prescription Instruction Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I forget to take a pill?

Missing a dose of a pill is something that should be taken seriously. As soon as the skipped or late dose is noticed, read the information sheet that came with that medication and follow the directions that are given.

In some cases, it’s OK to take a dose late and then take the next dose as normal, as long as the issue is noticed within a couple of hours of when the dose was due. With other medications, the late dose should be skipped entirely.

If there is any doubt about what to do, consult a doctor immediately. If skipped or late doses are something that happens often, talk to a doctor about the possibility of changing the medication for something that has a simpler dosing schedule.

What should I do if I take too much of a medicine?

Taking too much of a medication is known as overdosing and can be very dangerous. In the event of an accidental overdose, seek advice from a doctor immediately, calling urgent care or an out of hours line if a primary care physician is not available.

Note the name of the medication that was taken and how much so that the health care professional can advise on what action to take.

Is there help available for people who are worried about their medicines?

Seniors who struggle to remember to take medication or who regularly accidentally double up on a dose or take medications late may find it helpful to have regular reminders or advice on hand.

Some medical alert systems include smart bands with software to help seniors remember important day-to-day tasks. They also have care and support lines that seniors can call if they have concerns about their medication, want to know if they can start using a new supplement or think they may have missed a dose.

Those who are prone to confusion or who struggle with self-medication for other reasons, such as difficulty opening pill boxes or administering injections may find that some form of home care service could help them manage these tasks while still living independently at home.

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