It happens in an instant. You can spend your entire life, having taken nothing more than vitamins, but with a trip to the emergency room, or a diagnosis of a serious illness, as if you did not have enough to deal with, you will most likely be introduced to the world of prescription medications. So, now you will not only have to deal with possibly a life-changing situation, but now, you will probably be concerned with side effects from the new medications, as well as learning how to take the many new medicines that will become part of your every day life. You will have to learn the timing of taking these medications as “absorption” of the drugs is just one of the situations that can have an impact on the effectiveness of the medicines. There are foods that need to be avoided, and some actually increased. Times in between taking certain combination medications. There are many other issues that can impact “when” you take a medicine. And for someone who has never taken a prescription medication for the long term, even one drug, having to take a regimen of drugs, and scheduling when to take them, simply put, can be overwhelming.
For me, my life turned upside down in 2008 with my heart surgery, a result from radiation damage for my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 1988. All of a sudden, I was taking 7 prescription drugs, along with several supplements for calcium and vitamin deficiencies. For the most part, my meds were all single dose per day, except for one of my most critical drugs, for my heart. That was taken twice a day, but I was having a hard time remembering to take that second dose. It was determined that I could take a similar drug, with extended release action. Regardless of the consumption being ideal to the medical world, I took all my pills at the same time, as part of my bedtime ritual, this way I would never forget to take them. And for me, it has worked. Again, not the way the doctors would like me to take the meds, but my body has done okay (just) with this method.
But then, one of my medications needed to be increased, and I was forced to once again, go back to having to take a med twice a day. And having concerns how to remember, I did something I saw only elderly do…
I bought a pill box organizer. I was still able to take my pills at night, but to make sure that I remembered to take my pills in the morning, I always had my car keys sitting underneath the box. There was no way that I would forget. The system works when someone has all their mental faculties.
But what happens to individuals who have no one to care for them, and yet, must be trusted to remember to not only take their medications on time, and the correct dosages? And follow all of the other instructions with each prescription?
My father’s situation was not just a typical example, but unfortunately all too common. A combination of effects from two strokes he suffered during surgery to remove his lung cancer, complicated with cancer cells spreading to his brain, my father, not only completely independent his entire life, but also the caregiver for his wife permanently injured in a car accident, he was unable to monitor, and administer not just his pills, but his wife’s also.
We had hired caregivers, round the clock, but my father was notorious for sending them home. His attitude was, his house, his rules. I wanted to kick his pride right in the ass. But even when the caregivers were there, they were not allowed to administer or even remind him, to take his pills because that was not part of their job description, officially or legally.
So, in the beginning, of this stage of my father’s life, I drove an hour, each direction, just to manage his medications, and my stepmother’s.
I had to arrange two different boxes, and then somehow, figure a way to make sure that my father did not mix the two up. I had to take a sheet of paper for each of them, write their name on it, and the name of each drug, dose, and how many times a day on it. Then fill each container for both.
Within a week, I got a call from my father, that he had extra pills left over from earlier in the day. I made the drive up to his house, and found out this did not just happen once, but several times. I had to come up with a different solution. I could not afford to stay with my dad, nor could I make daily 2-hour trips every day.
After research, and some assistance from FB family members, I found out about an alarm clock that had multiple settings, just for the purpose of taking medications. I could program it, and it would go off, reminding the patient to take the medications at that time. The only thing was, I was relying on my father to remember why the alarm would be going off. But for now, it was the best solution yet to deal with the mileage that I was putting on my vehicle just for managing his medications.
Then I learned about something new, courtesy of my father’s pharmacist. Most chains now have a delivery service. The pharmacy gets the prescriptions, and prepacks them into the organizer, and then delivers them, normally at no extra cost. I want to make note, I was not trying to get out of the weekly chore or travel of managing my dad’s meds, but I knew as time went on, my father would need our efforts more as his condition got worse. But for the time being, this system worked well, even my father who was not a big fan of trying something new, liked the idea of having the pills delivered already prepared. Combined with the alarm settings, the system worked until the time came that my father approached his next level of care.
For those of you reading this post, if you are in this situation, I know how stressful, scary, and intimidating it can be. I wanted you to see that there are options available to help you if you are thrown into this situation.