Helpful Tools for Avoiding Medication Mix-ups

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Helpful Tools for Avoiding Medication Mix-ups

Do you take medication daily? If so, you aren't alone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 76% of Americans age 60 or older use two or more prescription drugs a day, and 37% use five or more every day1. Add vitamins and over-the-counter medications to the mix, and there's a real chance for confusion.

Two common concerns when managing medications include keeping track of multiple medications, and remembering whether or not a medication has been taken. Here's a list of tools to help keep you organized and reduce your chances of a medication mix-up.

Reminders

Instead of relying on your memory to keep to your medication schedule, use a simple alarm or alert that can be set on a watch, a cell phone or a computer. If you use a service, such as a personal emergency response system or other monitoring service, see if they offer a medication reminder call. You can also check with your local senior service organizations regarding any phone reminder assistance that might be available.

Medication Cassettes

Keep track of your medications by using a medication cassette, or pill box. These plastic organizers are available in a variety of colors and sizes and allow you to put the pills into individual sections labeled for day of the week or time of day, such as breakfast/lunch/dinner.

Plastic Pill Packs

Sold in bulk, these are small, plastic, pocket-sized zip top pouches that allow a person to write any info on it such as pill name, schedule, or other notes, such as take with liquid or food, take at bedtime, and so on. 

Blister Packs

Blister packs look like an 8 x10 sheet of cardboard with plastic bubbles that are pre-filled by a pharmacy with the appropriate medications and vitamins associated with a particular day and time. You simply pop out the medications from the blister pack to use them. Blister packs are often used when a person is discharged from a hospital, particularly if new medications have been prescribed.

Automated Medication Dispenser

If security is a concern, you can purchase or rent an automated medication dispenser. With this in-home device, you can organize and load medications into the machine and then lock it. The machine is programmed to dispense medications on a schedule that sounds an alarm when it's time to take the medication.

Pre-fill Services

Some people find it easier to pre-fill their medications a week at a time. Ask your pharmacy if they offer pre-fill services. They may be able to pre-fill the medications utilizing the blister pack or pill box organizers, as well as insulin syringes for people with a regular, stable dose. Not all pharmacies offer pre-fill services, and some may charge a fee, but it may help you keep your medications organized and easier to take.

Tips for the Caregiver

While these tools can support your medication management and may help to avoid instances of medication mix-ups, there might come a day when you decide you need to hire a professional care provider. In most states, medications can be administered only by a licensed care provider, such as a registered nurse, a licensed vocational nurse, a licensed practical nurse or a certified home health aide with a medication certification.

Additionally, if your medication requires a regular blood draw and it's difficult to get out of the house for these appointments, discuss other options with your physician and your health insurance. Perhaps a lab or a visiting nurse service can perform these routine blood draws in your own home. 

 

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "NCHS Data Brief," website accessed 8/24/2012, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db42.htm

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