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Don’t Forget to Take Your Pills

As we get older, we often find ourselves taking multiple medications.  I’m 53, and I take about a dozen different pills every day.  It can be hard for me, sometimes, to remember what I’ve taken and when, and my cognitive powers are thankfully intact.  For someone who has difficulty with memory, keeping track of their medications can be a daunting task indeed.  Not only is it necessary to remember what to take and when, but also to know when it’s time to refill a prescription, what side effects to look for, and so on.  I came across a helpful article in the journal of the Lewy Body Dementia Organization, that gave a number of tips for managing medications when one has memory loss.

1.  Make a list of all medications you take.  This should include the name of the doctors who prescribed them, what they are taken for, and when and how they should be taken.4.

2.  Don’t forget to include any over-the-counter medications and supplements, as well as creams and eye drops (for example).  If this is too difficult, get someone to help you.  Make several copies of this list, keep one with you in your wallet, and take it to the doctor with you when you go.

3.  Write down a daily schedule on a separate piece of paper, making sure to include details on how and when to take your medications, and any special instructions.  (For example, do they need to be taken with food?  With a full glass of water?)

4.  Be sure to post this schedule where you’ll see it easily, like your refrigerator or on the bathroom mirror.

5.  Ask your pharmacist to print the labels on your medications in large print, if you have difficulty with your vision.

6.  Keep your medications in a separate place from those taken by the rest of your family.  (This may sound obvious, but I remember a time years ago when my mother took one of the dog’s pills.  And she didn’t have dementia.)  Be sure to take only those medications that have your name on the container.

7.  Consider getting one of those “day of the week” pill organizers.  Have a friend or relative set  yours up once a week, if that will help.  Get a different color box for different times of the day.

8.  Get all your medications from the same pharmacy.  That way, the pharmacist can help you keep track of what you are taking, and alert you to possible negative drug interactions.

9.  Write on the medicine bottles what each one is for.

10.  Use a computer to make a daily checklist of your medications, and mark off when you take them.

11.  Post sticky notes in important places as a reminder to take your medications.

12.  Set an alarm on your clock, watch, or computer, to help you remember.

13.  Ask a friend or family member to help you keep track of your medications.

14.  Ask the pharmacy to send you reminders to refill your medications.  Some will prepare a refill automatically, without being asked.

15.  If you use a mail-order pharmacy, ask that they assign one representative to you, who is familiar with how to deal with persons with memory loss.

And, most importantly, make sure that children and animals do not have access to your medications.

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