Monday, February 6, 2012

Remembering Vitamins and Medications

Compliance taking a daily medication (or vitamin) can be troublesome for many.  I find myself counseling parents and kids how to remember medicines often.  Here are my favorite tips:

  • Use a pill box for pills. They come in various sizes and either single daily dosing or am/pm dosing, depending on your needs.  Pill boxes allow you to: 
  1. be sure you have enough for the upcoming week,
  2. remember if they were taken today,
  3. keep several types of pills for each day together if taking more than one pill.  
  • Liquid medicines: Wash the syringe after each use. Empty the dish drain of all contents daily so you find the syringe and remember to use it.  Or put a clean syringe in visible sight where you often look (tape it to the milk jug, in a glass next to the kitchen sink, in a glass near your coffee pot).  Remember the medicine needs to be out of reach from kids... not necessarily the syringe! 
  • Refrigerated medicines: Put the medicine on a shelf that is eye-level, right in front. Don't let it get pushed to the back. Return the bottle to the fridge before giving the medicine to lessen the chance you leave it on the counter.  Remind older children that can access the refrigerator that the bottle is off limits!
  • Keep medicine next to something you do daily (coffee, toothbrush). *Always keep out of reach of young children.*
  • Use a specific glass that is unique that goes from table to dishwasher to table and never is put away.  Every time you empty the dishwasher, put water in the glass and set it on the table for medicine.
  • Refill the medicine 1 week before you run out.  This allows you flexibility in case you forget to pick it up. It also allows recognition that there are no refills if that was missed, giving one week to see your doctor.  You can have enough for vacations if you routinely do this, since you can only fill one week earlier than the last fill... plan ahead if travelling!
  • Keep tabs on number of refills left. The pharmacist should let you know with each refill how many are left. If there are none, call right then to set your next appointment if you haven't already.
  • Set your phone or watch to alarm at the times the medicine is due.  Change the tone to one that is unique to remind you.
  • Put a reminder on your calendar to call for refills and/or schedule appointments before the last minute.
  • Leave sticky notes around the house or in your bathroom and kitchen if necessary!
  • Keep some medication in your purse (or at the school nurse) to take if forgotten in the morning if this might still be a problem.  Remember to not leave your purse in the car or other places the medicine will get too hot or cold.  If the school nurse will keep some, be sure to ask for a nurse's note when getting the prescription.
  • If you travel often, it helps to keep an empty pill box in your toiletry bag, so when packing it you see the empty box that needs to be filled.  Or you could put a sticky note in the toiletry bag reminding you to pack them.
  • Grab a pen/marker and draw a "calendar" (Mon am/pm, Tues am/pm, ...) on the bottle with space to check off when you've given the medicine each day. 
Regular prescription medications goes hand in hand with regular follow up with your doctor to manage the medication dosing. This is important for many reasons, so I try to give as many refills that will be needed until the next visit.  Ask your doctor how they handle refills before the medicine runs out so there are no delays in treatment.  Remember to schedule your next visit!
  • If able, schedule the next visit before you leave the doctor's office.  Bring your calendar to each visit!
  • Call as soon as you can to schedule if you don't have your calendar available at the doctor's office or you were unable to schedule for any reason.
  • If you notice no more refills on the bottle when picking up your medicine, call that day to schedule an appointment.  The later you wait, the fewer appointment times will be available. Early morning and later in the day fill first!
  • If you are filling the prescription at a time that your doctor's office is closed, look for options for them to call you.  Some offer online appointment requests.  You can request appointments from our website at any time day or night. Leave the best numbers for us to call during business hours.  Many offices have a voice mail that allows leaving a message for them to call you to schedule an appointment.
Once habits form, it is easier to remember, but until then be sure to set reminders-- especially if the medication must be taken at a certain time each day or if missed doses can be dangerous.  Learn what to do if you forget a dose by talking with your doctor or pharmacist. Some medicines are fine to skip a dose, others are not so forgiving and must be taken as soon as remembered.  

I hope this helps!  What tricks have you learned to remember your medicines?

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