When it comes to medication, know your 'rights'

Do you respect the “rights” of your medications?

By that I mean taking the

• right medication, at the

• right dose, at the

• right time, in the

• right way.

If you read the first column in this series, you may recall that three-quarters of Americans — yes, 75 percent — don’t manage to do so on a regular basis.

Why? Well, it can be a lot less simple than it sounds. That’s what the Med Ed website and this column series is about — identifying common barriers and giving you strategies to get around them.

One of those easier-said-than-done things is simply remembering to take your medications… at the right time, in the right way.

Here are several strategies that others have found helpful, starting with the least expensive solution first.

Dispensers are indispensable

Dispensers (pillboxes) are a great, easy tool. For stories from Alaskans on how they use dispensers, visit the MedEd.alaska.gov website and watch videos #1 and #3. A few of the tips they share:

• Taking pills out of a dispenser means that you have the answer at your fingertips if you find yourself wondering, ‘I remember taking my pill — but did I take it today or am I thinking of yesterday?’ If today’s compartment is empty, voilà! you took your meds today.

• Filling out several weeks’ worth of dispensers at a time will help you see when you’re going to run out of a medication, so you have plenty of time to order more.

A large variety of dispensers are available, from simple plastic ones (email us at AKMedEd@alaska.gov, we can mail you one!) to sophisticated electronic ones. Some simple plastic ones have two compartments per day, in case you take some pills in the morning, and some at night. One version holds a month’s worth of pills, and has a little alarm you can set with up to four daily friendly reminders.

Charting your course

If you don’t want to mess with dispensers, or you have to take pills several different times over the course of the day, it may be easier to track in writing.

• You can make your own paper chart of a week that shows the pills you take and the times of day when you take them. You may want to add notes such as whether to take with food, or to take an hour before eating, etc. Check off each pill as you take it. There is a chart you can print out on the Med Ed site, MedEd.alaska.gov.

• You can buy a small magnetized white board with dry-erase markers and list your pills on the board. Each day, mark the board when you take your medication. It’s an easy way to keep track, and at the end of the day, just erase the board and start over again in the morning.

• Phone reminders: On most phones, you can set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to take a medicine. There are more elaborate apps for smart phones. There are also companies that provide automatic phone reminders for a monthly fee. If you don’t answer or acknowledge the reminder, the system will contact someone whose name you’ve suggested.

• Electronic devices: There is a huge range of electronic devices for medicine reminders. Examples include talking alarm clocks, pill box timers, and electronic devices that dispense the right medicine at the right time. These are usually filled a month at a time. They lock so that only the medicine scheduled for a certain time can be removed.

Ask your pharmacist for suggestions on what might work best for you, the cost and where you can find it.

Medication review in October

We’ll be holding one-on-one appointments at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center, 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2. Throw everything you take — prescriptions, over-the-counter medications like multivitamins, aspirin and Tylenol, and herbal supplements like gingko biloba — into a bag and bring it in, and I or a colleague will look them over for anything that’s out of date or might interact badly.

I’ll bring pill dispensers to give away, as well as wallet-size medication list cards and magnifying glasses.

If you can’t attend for any reason (like if you don’t live in Anchorage), email us at AKMedEd@alaska.gov and ask us to send you a pill dispenser, card or magnifying glass.

Have a question? Email me

If you have a question about medications you’d like answered, send an email to AKMedEd@alaska.gov.

Lana Bell is a state pharmacist for the Alaska Pioneers’ Homes.

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