by Michaela E. Leffler, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP, Assistant Professor, Pharmacy Practice Department, University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, Charleston, WV
As the busy summer months are approaching, keeping your health and well-being as a top priority is as important as ever. Between spending time outdoors, enjoying the warm weather, and grilling out with family and friends, the last thing anyone wants to worry about is health problems due to mismanaged medications. So here are a few tips and tricks to make managing your medications and health conditions easy with only a small time commitment. By following these simple suggestions, I hope you can keep your body in tip-top shape so you have time and energy to make many wonderful memories this summer!
- Use a Pill Box
As a pharmacist, one of the most difficult things I see patients struggle with is figuring out how to take all the medications they are prescribed. Remembering to take medications on time and at the right time can be very difficult when managing multiple medications that sometimes need to be taken more than once per day. One of the most useful tools, and one that I recommend to all my patients, is a multiple compartment pill box. I recommend a pill box that has a section for morning and night medications on every day of the week. If you take some medications in the afternoon, they even sell pill boxes that have three sections for each day of the week. Spend some time every weekend filling your box with the appropriate medications in the morning, afternoon or evening boxes. If you are the type of person that travels around town on a regular basis, get a small individual pill box that will easily fit in your hand bag, wallet or pocket. This way you can take your pills out of your weekly pill box and take them with you on the go. Pill boxes eliminate the need to open multiple pill bottles a day and will put an end to the “Did I remember to take my pills this morning?” question. These pill boxes can be found online by searching for “three times a day pill organizer”, or you can find them at your local pharmacy.
- Get into a Routine
Working a designated time to take medications into your daily routine is a great way to reduce the number of medication doses that are forgotten. One way to do this is to associate taking medications with a certain task that you complete at around the same time each day. Some examples include times such as when you are eating meals, brushing your teeth or feeding pets. Additionally, if you find yourself leaving the house for the afternoon or evening, find a way to remind yourself to take your next dose of medications with you. You can do this by storing medications in an area you will pass on the way out of the door or by leaving yourself a reminder note. Medications that are only taken once weekly or once monthly, such as some medications prescribed to increase bone density, can be associated with an event that usually happens once a week Some examples of these types of activities include going to a church service, grocery shopping or a recurring gathering such as a club or workout class. Another helpful tool in creating a routine is setting alarms to help you remember to take medications. Set alarms on a device such as your cellphone to remind you to take medications at the same times each day.
- Know Your Meds & Ask Questions
Try your best to know your medications. I have encountered many patients who blindly take their medications simply because their doctor says that they should. I encourage every person who takes a medication to approach their health, wellbeing, and medical care from a team approach in which the patient, nurse, pharmacist, and physician work together with a common goal. As the patient, your job is to know your medications by name and strength. Also know what the medication is used to treat, how you need to take it, and a few of the major side effects that the medication can cause. If you are left feeling confused after a doctor’s visit or a trip to the pharmacy, then pick up the phone and call. Ask all the questions you need to be answered. Your healthcare professionals are there to help you understand your healthcare and medications better. As a pharmacist, I know that I truly enjoy teaching patients about their medications when they express genuine interest and want to know how to best take care of themselves.
- Record Measurements
Some medications and disease states require frequent monitoring to appropriately adjust medication doses and regimens. It is very helpful when patients complete regular monitoring at home and write down results to bring to office visits. For example, when taking medications for high blood pressure, it is useful to have daily blood pressure readings logged or when taking medications for diabetes it is helpful to have consistently timed daily blood glucose readings. There are many other scenarios in which it is helpful for patients to monitor at home so that the physician, pharmacist, nurse, or other health care professional can tailor the medication regimen to the patient. Next time you go to an appointment, be sure to ask your health care professionals how you can help them monitor from home!
- Listen to Your Body
A final bit of advice is to make sure you always listen to your body. It is easy to ignore signs and symptoms of poor health when life is busy, but it is often true that the longer you wait the more potential damage done to the body. If something does not feel right, pick up the phone and make an appointment today. Don’t wait!