It can be hard to keep track of when and how to take medicines. And the more medicines you take, the harder it may be. Here are some ideas you can use to stay organized and track your medicines.
Know your medicines
The first step in keeping track of your medicines is to know what you're taking.
- Make a master list of all your medicines ( What is a PDF document? ). This lists your medicine names, doctors' names, doses, side effects, and other important information, and should include all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Take it with you to every doctor visit, and be sure to update it whenever your medicines change. Make sure family members have copies in case of an emergency.
- Know what each medicine is for and what side effects to watch for. Ask your doctor when and who to call if you think your medicine is causing a problem.
- Know when you will run out of each medicine. Write refill reminders on your calendar. Don't wait until you have only one or two pills left. If your health plan has a mail-order service for refills, it may be easier and cost less than a pharmacy. You also may be able to get a 30- or 90-day supply of many medicines.
- Know what to do if you miss a dose. Talk to your doctor about each medicine you take. What you do about a missed dose could be different for each medicine.
- Make sure your medicines aren't expired. Ask your pharmacist how to safely get rid of expired medicines.
Have a routine
- It helps to have a daily medicine routine. Make a schedule for taking your medicines, and follow it every day. You can use this daily medicine planner ( What is a PDF document? ).
- Find activities you do every day at the same time you need to take your medicine, such as brushing your teeth. Use these activities to help remind you to take your medicines.
- Set your watch alarm or a kitchen timer to remind you when to take your medicines. Or ask a family member to help you remember to take your medicines.
- Use sticky notes to remind yourself. Place the notes where you will see them, such as on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator door.
Use a pillbox
- Use a plastic pillbox with dividers for each day's medicines. You can buy small pillboxes with just a few compartments, or you can buy larger ones. Some pillboxes have timers you can set. Choose the pillbox that best fits your needs.
- Put your pillbox in a place where it will remind you to take your medicines. For example, if you need to take medicines 3 times a day with meals, put those medicines in a pillbox near where you eat.
- If you use a pillbox, keep one pill in its original bottle. Then if you forget what a pill is for, you can find the bottle it came from.
- A few medicines must be stored in their original containers so they don't spoil. If your medicine label has this instruction, then don't use a pillbox for that medicine.
Taking a lot of pills increases your chances of having problems. If you take more than one medicine that works the same way, you could get too high a dose. And sometimes medicines work against each other. So make sure you know how to stay safe when you take several medicines.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine