Ways Seniors Best Organize Their Medications
Seniors, or those above the age of 60, are taking prescription medication, and, more often than not, they’re taking more than one medication. According to the CDC, 85% of the U.S. population above 60 took medication in the years 2015 - 2016. Then, a smidge over half of the population (54%) over 65 take four or more different medications per day, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Four or more medications can be difficult to track, especially if the meds have certain demands, like being taken on a full stomach.
The Importance of Patient Compliance
Did you know that patient compliance is one of the most crucial elements of medication treatment? The medication will not work if you do not take it correctly or, more obviously, if you do not take it at all. Drug manufacturers make every effort to ensure patients will comply with treatment during research and development. After all, if a drug has uncomfortable side effects, it may reduce the likelihood that you stick to your treatment. If a medication has very specific dosing or rules (like the birth control pill, which must be taken at the same time each day), it’s likely to have issues with patient medication therapy adherence. The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of patients do not take medication as prescribed, and this failure leaves a $100 billion-sized hole in the healthcare industry each year.
A crucial element of patient compliance is organization, especially if you’re working with several medications. Some medications cannot be taken together. Other medications need to be taken twice a day. Here are a few ways seniors keep their medication organized.
You’ve seen them before: a ruler-sized box with day-of-the-week labels. The pill organizer box has been around for decades, so much so that its image seems to go hand-in-hand with senior living. Today, we have options: Your pill organizer can be linear and simple, or it can be a modified form of Janga, with portable pillboxes stacked atop one another. (This stacking organizer has very high reviews, although some reviewers noted that it didn’t come with enough sticker labels.) Research on pill organizers is limited, but one study found that pill organizers could lead to trouble if patients were previously not taking medication as prescribed. If you all of a sudden start taking your medication as you are supposed to, you may experience a rush of side effects; you may even need to adjust doses, depending on your medication. As such, anyone about to use a pill organizer or considering using one should report to their primary care provider first.
Medication Tracking Phone Apps
Yes, we really do have an app for everything. If you can muster the strength to download yet another little gimmick to go on your gimmicky telephone, applications can help you track your medication intake. They’ll give reminders at the proper times and ask you at the end of the day if you’ve taken your medicine. (They are stand-ins for a home health aid, in some regard. The robots are coming for our jobs!) Here are a few of the top-rated ones:
Medisafe Medication Management
The Medisafe Medication Management app allows you to send progress reports to your provider. Not to mention, you can employ Darth Vader’s dulcet tones as your reminder voice. Says one happy reviewer:
I was able to make my own schedule as well as put those notes in about each one. It also shows a picture of the pill so I’m grabbing the right one out of the pill case since they are all together. Pill cases are great but not everything falls under the am, afternoon and pm schedule. I also enjoyed watching a video about the pills I take. Oh and I forgot, I was also able to forward to a friend of mine so he gets alerted after awhile [sic] if it recognizes I haven’t taken them. I can’t say enough about how blown away I’ve been with the app and all of the extra surprises.”
MyTherapy doesn’t just track medication intake; it also includes a health and mood journal and opportunities to track activity. With a more holistic approach to health, MyTherapy is better suited to people with singular health goals or those combatting a specific illness that needs a multi-pronged approach. The real benefit, says one reviewer, is the symptom-tracking feature. Writes this consumer:
...being able to download reports and the chart it generates in PDF form is awesome. Especially the way you can track symptoms (and try to determine correlations, which is exactly what I wanted). My mood leveled out after 2 months on Zoloft and you could see that readily in the chart. It definitely made an impact on my psychiatrist for understanding if the medication was working for me and if I should stay on it or switch. He is going to share my anonymous charts to his colleagues and recommend the app to his patients.”
Care4Today, a product of Johnson & Johnson, provides the usual suspects: pill photos, reminders, etc. It also reminds you when your medication is running low (according to how you’ve been taking it) and alerts you regarding upcoming doctors’ appointments. Writes one reviewer:
Really enjoy the features on this app it'll come in handy when I'm sick and I have to take medication. More than that, it reminds me of all of my doctors appointments.”
Blister packs for medication organization
“Blister packs” are rectangular trays of medication that sometimes come with day-of-the-week labels. U.S. consumers may be most familiar with this format as birth control packets: Birth control packs usually are organized as monthly therapies that include a row of sugar pills that allow for a week of menstruation. They are not otherwise that common stateside. However, research indicates that blister packs are the most helpful form of packaging for medication adherence. They help patients visualize their intake: If there are three dots empty in the 3 x 10 blister pack, you’ve taken three of your 30 prescribed pills for the month. Easy as pie!
Related: Do international pharmacies make medication errors like in the U.S.? Blister Packs vs. Loose Pills