Forget me, Not: Pill Dispensers & Pillboxes

Forget me,

Medication Adherence: Not taking prescribed medicine can have serious consequences, which is where pill dispensers come in.

Hard to swallow ... but you can train yourself to always take your medicine.

Copyright: Lynda Shrager

I found some bright coloured, non pill-box-looking pill boxes in the store the other day and promptly bought one for each family member in their favorite colour.

Each one had the usual slots for pills with the labelled days and slid into a plastic box with a transparent cover. It seemed to be the perfect, trendy case that didn't scream "you're not even 50 and take a lot of pills".

A week later my husband admitted that in the past seven days he had taken his pills three times. I had taken mine only four times.

Our "un-pill boxes" were not providing us with the visual prompt we needed to remember to take our pills.

Not taking prescribed medication can have serious consequences.

Research indicates that people comply with their prescriptions only half the time.

Why don't people take their medicine? Some do not accurately understand directions on how to take it, some begin to feel better and stop, and many simply forget.

Numerous medication organising systems (medication aids) exist to help people remember to take their pills. The most common is a pill box with individual compartments labelled by the day. That lets you see at a glance what needs to be taken and when, and if a dose has been missed.

Electronic pill boxes have a variety of programmable alarms including chimes, beeps and even voices that say take your pills.

Alarm clocks and pagers also can help you remember to take your pills.

Watch-like reminder alarms sound or vibrate at designated times, and others have LED readouts with the name of the pills and other relevant information.

Electronic pill dispensers not only remind but dispense the correct, programmed dose.

This is an excellent option when the caregiver cannot be on site and the patient's memory is impaired.

The top of the line is the Philips Medication Dispenser (MD2 Automatic Pill Dispenser). It can be programmed up to 30 days in advance and provides three different reminders - voice, text and blinking lights. The device also calls the caregiver if the medications are not taken on time. All of these devices can be found at

One patient of mine, who kept her preset pill box on the kitchen table, would get settled into bed at night and realise she had not taken her nightly pills. I took a large, brightly colored index card, folded it in half so it would stand, wrote "take your pills" on it with a dark marker and placed it on her bedside table.

This solution simply created a visual prompt in a specific location that served as an effective reminder.

You can do this, too, by connecting a visual prompt with an established routine (near the coffee maker or night table, or where you hang your keys) to help promote successful pill taking.

Try these health organising tips to help you remember to take your pills:

Ask your doctor if your medication can be dosed in longer-acting pills to avoid having to take multiple smaller doses during the day.

Memory is based on effectively putting new information into your mind so when starting a new medication, repeat the instructions to yourself five to 10 times. Read them, say them out loud.

Visualise yourself taking the medication; focus on this mental picture for at least a minute.

Lynda Shrager is an occupational therapist writing for the Sidney Morning Herald.
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