One of my most time-consuming and stressful tasks as a caregiver was managing multiple medications and supplements for my parents.
Being responsible for getting their prescriptions filled and doggedly ensuring there were no adverse drug interactions or side effects was difficult. Tracking and sorting all of the pills, liquids, creams, nasal sprays and eyedrops, and administering them all, was exhausting.
How did I survive? By finding practical ways to organize and track it all. Here are my top tips for making medication management easier.
Organize for more than a week
Many years ago I helped my parents get set up with pill organizers so that Dad, who had Alzheimer's disease, and Mom, who'd had a stroke, could better track their daily intake. For a time, Dad filled the boxes; my sister Susie filled them when it got too confusing and stressful for him.
When I moved to Arizona to care for my parents, I took over the task. I soon realized that by the time I got all the supplies out and filled one week's pillbox, it didn't take much more time to fill up a second week. Eventually I was filling two months’ pill organizers at a time — a great time-saver that also made for fewer shopping trips or online orders.
The biggest problem I've had with pillboxes through the years has been finding a type that had individual compartments big enough to accommodate the plethora of pills my parents took.
Before she passed away, Mom took various drugs five times a day (at one time she had an alarming 23 medications, which I whittled down). I actually had to use two boxes for her — one with four compartments, plus a small, single-compartment box.
For Dad, who took pills twice a day, I used giant pill organizers with four rows. Each two rows held a week's meds. I'd fill four of those mega-organizers at a time, for an eight-week supply.
Another time-saving option is presorted pill packets delivered directly from a pharmacy. Most of the major chains offer a 30-day supply, with each packet containing all pills to be taken with each dose.
There are also many technology-based pill organizers and dispensers that can help you plan (see below).
Create and maintain a list of meds
With a comprehensive list, it's less likely you'll forget anything while filling the pillboxes. It also helps ensure that any additional caregivers or an emergency-response person can easily find the information.