8 Creative Ways to Remember to Take Your Medicine Every Day
Medically reviewed by L. Anderson, PharmD Last updated on Feb 18, 2019.
Do you feel like you already have enough to juggle each day?
And now you have to remember to take one, two or maybe more medications each day?
It’s a fact - keeping up with your prescription, over-the-counter, and vitamin treatments can be a daunting task. But never fear – there are tried and true methods to help you to remember to take your daily meds on time without fail.
A Pharmacokinetic Primer: Half-life and Steady State
Pharmacokinetics, you say? It’s really not that hard to understand, and points out the importance of adherence to your medications (that is, taking them as prescribed).
Many of us think it’s no problem when we miss a few doses of medication, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. All medications have a “half-life” - that is, the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the drug dose. When you take your medication on a regular basis, your body reaches what is known as “steady state” – the amount of drug going into your body (absorption) is the same as the amount of drug going out (metabolism and excretion).
It usually takes about five to six half-lives for a drug to reach its steady state. For example, if your medication has a half-life of 12 hours, like the common blood pressure drug lisinopril (Zestril), your steady state blood levels of medication could decline by over half in 60 to 72 hours, or just a few days. Your blood pressure could creep back up and this could have ill effects on your heart health. In a nutshell, this is one reason why it is so important to take your medications regularly as prescribed by your doctor.
Often, drug side effects may occur temporarily when a drug is reaching the steady state, that is, as drug levels are rising in the body. If you miss a few doses, and then have to get back to your steady state when you resume your medication, you risk a greater chance that you may experience those temporary side effects again. This is another good reason not to miss your dose.
Here are some tips to help you remember how to take your medicine.
1. Practice makes perfect...learn about your medicines
Learning more about what your medications are used for will reinforce your adherence to your treatment plan. Learning about your medical conditions can be a strong motivator, too. This is especially important for conditions that have few, if any, symptoms to remind you it’s time to take your medicine – like high blood pressure.
Learning about side effects are important so you can recognize them if they occur. Many side effects with drug treatment are temporary, so be sure to ask your doctor about short-lived and more long-term side effects with any medication.
2. Pill boxes
Pill boxes are an organization tool for your pills that can easily be found at most pharmacies. Pill boxes have been around for a long time, and are especially useful if you easily forget if you have taken your meds each day. Pill boxes are also very useful for people who take multiple medications each day and at different times.
Older patients may especially find pill boxes convenient to use. The boxes are split into individual sections that make-up a week’s worth of medicine, or more, and may even be separated by times of day. They can easily fit into travel bags or purses; however, don’t leave them in a hot car.
3. Electronic applications and pill reminders
Apps to help patients remember and track their medication use are convenient tools for anyone who carries a smartphone.
For example, the free Drugs.com Pill Reminder App can keep a complete list of all your medications. You can choose to get pill reminders to take your meds at a special time, and receive prescription refill reminders right on your mobile device. The Drugs.com Pill Reminder App even keeps a history of when you have (or have not) taken your meds.
If you like visual clues, you can add photos of your medications for easy reference. Plus, all the data is kept on your personal device only and is fully secure and private, for added peace of mind.
4. Calendar alerts
Maybe you prefer not to use a mobile device or just like the simple method of a calendar. Those are great tools, too. Mark your daily doses on a paper calendar at home, on your computer, or even in your little black book. Just be sure to update it frequently and mark through each dose as you take it, in case you forget from dose to dose.
Getting into a regular routine to help you remember to take your meds is really what’s most important. Find what works best for you.
5. Tie your medication doses with a daily activity
You can tie your drug doses with a daily routine like breakfast time, after a shower, or when you get ready for bed. Keep your medications in easy-to-see (but secure) spot as a visual clue. Pretty soon taking your meds will be as routine as, well, brushing your teeth (and that might be a good time to take your meds, too).
Be sure you keep your medications in a safe and secure area, away from curious toddlers and pets. Protect your meds from extreme heat or cold, and don’t leave them in a steamy bathroom (where medicine cabinets are usually found, coincidentally). Most medications are stable at room temperature, but under extreme conditions, they can lose their potency, crumble, or even melt.
If your medicine needs to be stored in the refrigerator, consider posting a sticky note reminder on the fridge as a reminder to grab it when it’s time.
If you have especially dangerous medications such as opioid painkillers, be sure to keep them safe and secure, even locked up if need, to prevent theft or accidental ingestion by a child or pet.
6. Get help from family members or friends
Many friends and family take meds, and creating a team to help remind each other to take their doses can be helpful. If you live alone, maybe a friend would text you each morning or night, when they also take their meds. If a family member you live with also takes meds, you have a built in pill reminder right there at your house. Take advantage of it.
Seniors often need help to remember their medications. If you have a loved one that takes several meds, consider helping them create a pill box, printing out pictures of their pills from the Pill ID tool, and then writing in large print what each medicine is used for, and its name and dose. Place the pictures in a conspicuous, but safe, place so that they can refer to the printouts when needed.
Large print on prescription bottles and for drug information printouts can be very helpful as older patients lose their eyesight. Your pharmacist can usually print out dosing and drug information in large type – so be sure to ask.
7. Keep an up-to-date list of your medication names, strengths, doses, and number of remaining refills
Having an easily accessible list of your medication specifics will enable you to provide this information correctly and quickly at a time when you might need it the most – in an emergency situation. Just be sure to update this information when medications are started or stopped. Remember – over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbal or dietary supplements count, too – so have them on your list.
If you utilize electronic tools, you can easily update this information as needed on the free Drugs.com Medication Guide App.
8. Ask your doctor and pharmacist to help simplify your medication regimen
If all else fails, there may be ways to simplify your medication regimen to make life easier. If you take a drug two or three times per day, your doctor may be able to find a similar drug that only needs to be taken once a day.
If you need to separate doses because you have to be careful about combining antacids or other supplements with prescription drugs due to drug interactions, your doctor may be able to find medications that do not cause an interaction.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist which medications you can safely take together at the same time to limit multiple daily doses.
Be sure to check to see if you can take your meds at breakfast, dinner, or bedtime - the most common (and often easy) times to take medications. Set up your routine around these times, if possible.
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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.