Sometimes the first meal of the day seems like a handful of pills. It can be overwhelming to keep track of all the medications you need.
But you CAN manage your medications.
The first thing you need is a list. You can print out and use this readymade form, or use it as a model for your own list. Work with your health-care providers to create and keep your list up to date.
Here’s how to get started.
The Big List
- Make a complete list of all prescribed medications. Include what healthcare provider prescribed them, the date, the reason, the dose, the times you take them, and the pharmacy. Leave room for any side effects or noticeable benefits (called “Issues to discuss” on the sample form).
- Add all the vitamins and minerals you take. List the dose, the times you take them, and the reason. If you discontinue any, explain why and cross them out.
- Add any over-the-counter medications you take. Include the dose, how often you take them, and the reason. Again, leave space for benefits and side effects. Cross them off when you discontinue them and include why.
- Finally, list all complementary and alternative supplements you take. List the name, dose, frequency, reason for taking and benefits or side effects. If you use a preparation with many ingredients, list them and also take the bottle or label to your next doctor's appointment.
Save health and money
Bring your list to all health-related appointments. Review it with each of your health-care providers. Ask about interactions. Ask if they consider all your medications necessary. Ask if you can take any of them in a generic form. This can keep your costs down. Make it your business to know what your insurance covers, and doesn't cover (see the green sidebar to the right).
Keeping the Big List up to date
Update your list when any medications are added or discontinued. Always ask your prescriber if a new medication will interact with the others on your list. If you notice any unusual symptoms after starting a new medication, call the prescribing provider and note the symptoms on your list.
Image courtesy of Patterson Medical/Sammons Preston
The pill organizer
Those numbered pill organizers can help you keep track. Get one with multiple sections for doses throughout the day. There are also medication minders with alarms to remind you to take your medicine. (You can also set a timer or wear a wristwatch with an alarm.)
A team effort
Enlist a family member, friend or caregiver to help you organize your pill box every week. Ask for reminders when a dose is due. Health care is a team effort and you are the most important person on the team!
Author: Patricia Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, Nurse Educator and Program Advisor