Storing and dispensing medicines
Taking multiple medications can be confusing, so having an appropriate management system in place is important. Correctly storing medication and using the right pill dispenser can help you take your medication as prescribed, and reduce any stress and anxiety about when to take it.
It’s a good idea to discuss your prescriptions with any family members or friends who are involved in your care. Make sure they know about the dosages, how often pills need to be taken and at which times. If anything is unclear, you or your family members should speak to a GP.
Ensure all medications are clearly labelled and, ideally, stored in the same place in the home. However, always be sure to check the storage instructions on the medicine, as some may need to be refrigerated.
It’s also important to keep a list of medications and dosages handy in case of an urgent situation, so that you can inform emergency services if they need to provide support.
Pill dispensers and dosette boxes
If you’re taking regular medication, a pill box (which could simply be a re-used ice cream container) can be invaluable because it offers a simple way to keep track of what needs to be taken and when. This can be particularly helpful if you’re taking a number of different medicines at different times of day.
These pill organisers are normally laid out by the week, although some offer monthly management, which can be useful when travelling as they are usually relatively compact.
There are also more advanced pill dispensers available that sound an alert when you’re due to take a tablet, and will send a message to a family member or carer if you miss a dose. These can help you to avoid missing a pill or taking repeated doses useful if you have poor memory.
Read more about electronic pill dispensers and other gadgets in our guide to memory aids.
These tend to be larger and can be used to organise pills into daily compartments for the whole month. If you need help filling the box, ask the pharmacy if they can provide their prescription in unit dosages or in a pre-packed dosette box. Otherwise you’ll need to organise for the box or dispenser to be refilled regularly.
Other types of pill organiser
There are also other types of dispenser available to suit different needs. Some are designed for easy handling, while others feature larger lettering or braille. It’s also possible to find pill dispensers with built-in alarms to provide timely reminders.
Timers and apps
If you have difficulty remembering when to take your pills, apps and timers can help. If you’re comfortable using a tablet or smartphone, you could download and set up one of the many free apps that send reminders. For example, search online for ‘pill reminder’. If you don’t feel confident doing this on your own, ask a relative, carer or friend if they can help you.
If a tablet or smartphone isn’t ideal, consider setting alarms on a digital clock or wearable smartwatch.
Many older people find it physically difficult to take their medication, but there are some handy gadgets and designs that can help.
A number of gadgets are available to help people who have difficulty opening their medication, either due to painful fingers or lack of strength in their hands.
- ‘Pill poppers’ help to remove a pill from its blister packaging, and there are also a range of pill crushers and splitters that make it easier to prepare medicine.
- For those who have difficulty opening a medicine bottle, a multi-grip bottle opener can also be useful.
Could telehealth help you?
If it's difficult for you to leave the house for GP appointments or trips to the pharmacy, it may be possible to get support via telehealth services. Telehealth uses modern technology to enable medical professionals to remotely monitor your health and manage your treatment, without you needing to leave your home.
Read our guide to find out more about how telehealth works and whether it may be suitable for you or a loved one:
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