“Oh dear, I appear to have forgotten to take my medication.” This sentence, or a variation of it, will be familiar to thousands of people each day. Forgetting to take just one form of medication is easy enough, but if you are taking multiple types, staying on top of them can get particularly tricky. In the USA, nearly half of the population take at least one prescription drug, and over 10% take five or more - known as polypharmacy. Polypharmacy becomes more prevalent with age, with over 40% of people 65 or above taking five or more prescription drugs.
Medication can only have the desired affect when taken as prescribed, so it is important to not forget them and find a system that work for you. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you out.
Be aware of drug interaction
Before worrying about the practical issues of taking multiple medications, bear in mind that certain drugs can interact with each other, which can lead to potentially dangerous side effects. Each and every time you add a medication to your schedule, you increase the risk of interaction, so make sure your doctor is aware of every medication you are taking. This includes over-the-counter medication, which your doctor may not have a record of. Even vitamin supplements and certain herbs can interact with drugs, so err on the side of caution and make sure your doctor is completely aware of everything you take.
You can add another layer of screening by using just one pharmacy, ensuring they have a complete record of your medication history. By doing so, your pharmacist can have an overview of your medications, and run interaction checks to make sure you are safe.
Keep an up-to-date list
The more medications you are taking, the more difficult it can be to maintain an overview and not forget. It’s worth keeping a detailed list of each drug, its purpose, correct dosage, and strength, as well as physical attributes such as shape, size, color, and packaging information. By doing so, you have an easy-to-access guide to your medications, as well as a useful tool for any friends, family members, or healthcare professionals who might assist you with taking them. Each time you renew a prescription, check these details are accurate and up-to-date.
Stick to your treatment plan
Each medication you have can only be truly effective when taken as intended. With each additional medication, this can become something of a juggling act. Here are a few ways of making sure your don’t forget to take your medication:
Humans are creatures of habit, and you no doubt have plenty you do on a daily basis, such as cleaning your teeth, showering, and eating meals at certain times. If you can partner your medication with these habits, you are far less likely to skip them by mistake. Perhaps you can store them near your toothbrush, the dining table, or closet, so you can’t miss them. As long as these places are cool and dry, and out of reach of children or pets, it’s a simple way of helping incorporate them into your daily routine.
Use your smartphone
Phones play a huge role in many people’s daily lives, and are an incredible tool for helping with medication. Setting reminders in your calendar is simple, easy, and customizable. If you want to take it a step further, pill reminder apps such as MyTherapy (available for iOS and Android) have been designed for this very purpose. No matter how complicated your medication needs, the planner can remind you exactly when you need to take each dose, as well as tracking the quantities and reminding you when to fill up.
The app can track how well you stick to your plan which, combined with symptom and well-being trackers, means you can have a comprehensive overview of how effective your treatment is.
If you're keen on a less techy option, pillboxes are a great way of preparing your medication for the coming week, with compartments for each day, and sub-compartments for different times. In their simplest forms, pillboxes are simply plastic containers, but even these humble little gadgets have received a modern revamp, and can now include dispensers, alarms, and push notifications to your phone.
Mark it on your calendar
While high-tech solutions are an incredible resource, a regular calendar will never run out of battery, so can also prove to be a useful tool. Having one in plain sight, perhaps with a check-list, is a simple way of reminding yourself what you need to take that day.
Call on friends and family
As with most things in life, sticking to your medication plan is made much easier with the help and support of friends and family. If they have all the information regarding your medications, they can help ensure you are diligent in taking them.
Why it matters
Any medication can only be effective when taken as intended. Failure to do so, known as non-adherence, can be a serious health risk. In relation to conditions such as diabetes and lung diseases, non-adherence has been linked with higher hospitality and mortality rates, both from exacerbating the existing condition and leading to new ones. Failure to follow prescriptions leads up to 125,000 deaths in the USA each year, highlighting just how important an issue it is.
While taking multiple medications can be a daunting proposition, a bit of simple planning, and utilizing purposely-designed tools, can give you the power to adhere to your medication plan.