5 smarter strategies for medication management Article Cover Art for the How to Age in Place Blog from AskSAMIE. Pictured is a weekly pill planner on a table.

5 Smarter Strategies for Medication Management

Managing medication can be a daunting task, especially for those with chronic conditions or multiple medications to take. Fortunately, there are several solutions available that make it easier to stay on track. In this article, we'll discuss our top 6 solutions for making medication management easier:

  1. timed-release pill dispensers
  2. monthly pill planners
  3. medicine alarm clocks
  4. pre-packaged pill pharmacies
  5. medication optimization

I'll provide an overview of each solution and how I've seen it be beneficial to my clients over the years. And if you find this helpful, sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more helpful tips.

Overview of medication management solutions

Managing multiple medications is complex and time-consuming. Getting it right is vital to your health, so organizing and tracking medications to make sure they're taken correctly and on time is critical to reducing the risk of side effects or overdoses.

When you have just a couple of medications, it can be managed in a variety of ways and you can easily remember what to do without additional tools. But 54% of people aged 65 or older are taking 4 or more prescription medications. Keeping those organized, especially with the different dosages and times taken during the day, is a challenge. There's a variety of adaptive devices created to manage this (which is also confusing!) so I am going to give it to you straight. Here are the top 5 solutions I love that help my clients the most.


1. Timed Release Pill Dispensers

Timed released automatic pill dispenser show open and filled. From AskSAMIE
Timed-release pill dispensers provide a convenient way for users to adhere to their medication schedule. These devices come with alarms and reminders that make it easy to make sure the correct dosage is taken at the right times throughout the day. Plus, some models can be connected to an app or smartphone, allowing users to track their medication intake in real-time. Another safety benefit is reducing the risk of incorrect dosing due to human error.

 I love the automatic pill dispenser for those with memory difficulties to stay on track of medication management independently. Alarms are both audible and visual. A flashing light will alert that it is time for medication, aiding those who are hard of hearing or who have low vision. Those alerts will stay on until the device has been turned over so that the pill can be poured into a hand or on the table, which helps with ensuring the pills are taken.

The automatic pill dispenser has a smart lock mechanism so that pills cannot be tampered with after they've been loaded. This also keeps the pills from falling out if the pill organizer is accidentally dropped. The automatic pill dispenser has 28 compartments where pills can be loaded and it's easy to setup and use.


2. Monthly Pill Planners

MedCenter Monthly Pill Planner and organizer shown with alarm clock from AskSAMIE

Using a monthly pill organizer is another great way to promote independence with medication management for those who have difficulties with memory or a complex dosage regimen. The monthly pill organizer has 31 individual pill organizers with spots for morning, noon, evening, and nighttime so that medication can be organized just once for the entire month. This is great if there is a care partner organizing these so it doesn't have to be done weekly.

I highly recommend a monthly pill planner with alarms. This one allows up to 4 alarms to be set daily to alert when medication is due. The other cool thing is that you could set up a talking alarm to alert the user. A repeating friendly reminder will notify the user of the date, time, and which dose to take, such as "Good morning! Please take your morning pills for today. The user can then pick up their pill organizer and take the corresponding pills. This could be the difference-maker for someone with moderate dementia that may not associate the standard alarm with the need to take medications. Being able to provide verbal direction as the alarm helps with that initiation.

Loud and extra-loud volume settings make sure that the alarm is heard, which is key for those with hearing loss.


3. Medicine Alarm Clocks

MedCenter Medicine Alarm Clock from AskSAMIE

For those looking for a reliable and easy-to-use solution to help manage their medication schedules, medicine alarm clocks are an ideal choice. The alarm we discussed above can actually be purchased separately from the monthly pill organizer. That way you can get the functionality of the alarm clock applied to any medication organizing case.

You might also use something you already have, like a cell phone or a smart speaker to create alarms. Using a phone is great because it can be kept with you at all times so the alarm is always recognized. But a smart speaker can be a great choice because the alarms are spoken aloud. Giving that command, "Sara, its time to take your morning medications in the kitchen." Can have a stronger success rate with taking the medications. Download this guide if you'd like help with how to set alarms on your smart speaker set up.


4. Pre-Packaged Pill Pharmacies

Spencer from Custom Health shown pictured on the table ready to dispense medications
Pre-packaged pill pharmacies provide a convenient solution for medication management because they've done the work for you. These pharmacies come with individual packets of medication that are already labeled with the correct pill, dosage, and time, so there's no need to organize them in a planner. This removes the risk of incorrect dosing due to human error with setting up a pill planner. It also makes it easier for users to keep track of their medication history.

These pre-packaged pill pharmacies also offer health benefits that go beyond ease of use. They help prevent missed doses, as all the medications are packaged together in a single container— this allows users to quickly see what needs to be taken at any given time. This reduces the risk of taking too little or too much medicine at any given time.

I really like the Spencer system from Custom Health because you not only get the pills prepacked monthly, but an audible alarm and disbursement at the right time. PLus added connectedness so that care partners can see when meds were taken and clinicians can see a whole history. Even if you don't use an automated device like Spencer, I highly recommend a pre packaged pill pharmacy like CareFil Rx that provides the pills in packages that are connected. That way you just pull the roll and the next pack is available - fool-proof! 

Overall, pre-packaged pill pharmacies provide an ideal solution for those looking for convenience and accuracy in their medication management program. They remove the need for users to manually count out pills each day and guarantee that they adhere to their prescribed dosage schedule correctly and without hassle. Furthermore, they allow patients to easily track their own progress over time and provide doctors with an accurate record of treatment history.


5. Medication Optimization 

Optimizing medications is a critical part of improving health outcomes and reducing side effects. The process begins by consulting with a primary care provider to determine which drugs are still necessary and whether any alternatives exist. This is a step hardly anyone cues us to take. We get put on a medication and we take it religiously, which is good, but it doesn't mean that it needs to be prescribed forever. If the symptom or problem has resolved, it's worth checking in with the primary care provider to see if the medication is still required - or required at that dosage. Taking fewer pills automatically decreases the complexity of managing medications, and we should consider asking, especially as we get older and the meds start piling up!

If you’re looking to decrease the number of medications you take, it’s important to be thoughtful and intentional about the process. Talk to your primary care provider before making any changes because it’s possible that changing your dosage could cause a negative reaction, or even make your condition worse. Your primary care provider can help you evaluate the risks and benefits of making any changes to your medication regimen. Additionally, they can recommend alternative treatments, like lifestyle changes or therapies, that might help you improve. And if you don't have one, get in with a senior-focused primary care provider in your area today!

In Summary

• Managing medication can be a daunting task, especially for those with chronic conditions or multiple medications to take.

54% of people aged 65 or older are taking 4 or more prescription medications.

• The top 5 solutions I love that help my clients the most are

  1. Timed Release Pill Dispensers
  2. Monthly Pill Planner
  3. Pre-packaged Pill pharmacies,
  4. Medicine Alarm Clocks
  5. Medication optimization

If you find this helpful, sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more helpful tips!

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Brandy Archie, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP

Dr. Archie received her doctorate in occupational therapy from Creighton University. She is a certified Living in Place Professional with past certifications in low vision therapy, brain injury and driving rehabilitation.  Dr. Archie has over 15 years of experience in home health and elder focused practice settings which led her to start AskSAMIE, a curated marketplace to make aging in place possible for anyone, anywhere! Answer some questions about the problems the person is having and then a personalized cart of adaptive equipment and resources is provided.

She's a wife, mother of 3 and a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan! Connect with her on Linked In or by email anytime.

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