Dear Savvy Senior: What tips or tools can you recommend that can help seniors and their caregivers keep up with medications? My 82-year-old mother, who lives alone, is supposed to take several different medications at various times of the day but often forgets. — Working Daughter
Dear Working: Anybody who juggles multiple medications can relate to the problem of forgetting to take a medication, or not remembering whether they already took it. This is especially true for older adults who take medications at varying times of the day. Here are some different product and service solutions that might help.
Simple medication helpers
Getting organized and being reminded are the two keys to staying on top of a medication schedule. To help your mom achieve this, there are a wide variety of pillboxes, medication organizers, vibrating watches, beeping pill bottles and even dispensers that will talk to her that can make all the difference. To find these types of products, the best source is Epill.com, where you’ll find dozens to choose from.
You can also help your mom stay organized by creating a simple medication list that breaks down exactly what she should take and when she should take it. To help you with this, go to SafeMedication.com — a resource from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists — and download and print a copy of “My Medicine List.”
There are also a variety of “smart” pillboxes on the market today that will remind your mom when she needs to take her medicine and will send family members and caregivers notifications if she forgets to take her pills or accidentally takes the wrong ones.
Three to consider here include Tricella (Tricella.com, $95), which uses Bluetooth connectivity but requires that your mom have a smartphone with data service or tablet with Wi-Fi; PillDrill (PillDrill.com, $279), a comprehensive system ideal for strict medication schedules but requires home Wi-Fi; and MedMinder (MedMinder.com, $40 per month), which operates off a cellular network (no phone line or Wi-Fi necessary).
Another way to help simplify your mom’s medication use is to get her prescriptions filled in single-dose packets that put all her medications (vitamins and over-the-counter drugs can be included, too) together in neatly labeled packets organized by date and the time of day they should be taken. This does away with all the pill bottles and pill sorting. One of the top providers of this type of service is PillPack.com, an online pharmacy owned by Amazon.
Apps and calling services
If your mom has a smartphone, there are apps she could use to help her keep up with her medication. One of the best is Medisafe (MyMedisafe.com), a free app works on Apple and Android phones. Medisafe will organize your mom’s pills in one place, send her timely notifications to take her meds, and send her reminders to fill her prescriptions.
Caregivers can also connect with the Medisafe app to get notifications about when it’s time for their loved one to take their medication — and they can see whether it’s been marked as taken.
If your mom doesn’t use a smartphone, there are also calling services, like Care Call Reassurance, which provides medication reminding calls — see Medication-Reminders.com. This service will call your mom’s phone at the scheduled times she needs to take her medication as a reminder, and if she fails to answer or acknowledge the call, a family member or caregiver will be contacted. This service runs between $15 and $20 per month.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.