The Life-Changing Magic: Building a Medication Routine
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up Your Medications Part IV: Building a Medication Routine
“When there’s a will, there’s a way” –this old English proverb asserts itself with complete assurance. Many times we do not have a choice when it comes to chronic medications; it is usually decreed upon us with a doctor’s prescription. Sometimes, we just do not have the will; many times, we lose our way.
Taking medications is often a necessary part of life, many times inevitable. The weight of having to live with chronic health conditions and the medications that follow can be daunting. Incorporating a habit of taking medications on a daily basis can be especially difficult when the will is weak or when we are completely overwhelmed.
Getting into a habit of taking medications can start in small and simple ways. Here are some helpful tips on how you can build a medication routine in your daily lifestyle.
Our memory may not be perfect especially with the need to juggle many different commitments in life. Reminders to help you remember to take your medications everyday can come in many different forms, adopt one or a few that works best for you:
Alarm clock. Setting a daily recurring alarm in your home or on your phone or watch can serve as timely reminders to take your medications.
Post-it-notes. Leave yourself notes to help you remember. Post-it notes or small notes pasted on items that you look at every day such as your bathroom mirror or refrigerator can help you remember to take your medications daily.
Calendar. You can mark your daily doses on a paper calendar at your home or workplace or even in your little notebook to mark through each medication dose as you take it, in case you tend to forget doses throughout the day.
You can pair your medication doses with a daily activity that you never forget. Taking your medications around the same time every day, having it with your morning coffee or meals, after brushing your teeth or a shower, or at bedtime can help to create a routine that develops into a daily habit. Always check if your medications require specific dosing instructions, for example, before or after meals and always check with your doctor or pharmacist when in doubt.
Using a pillbox
Pillboxes are organisation tools for your medications that can be easily found at most pharmacies. They are especially useful if you easily forget if you have taken your medications for the day. They are also very useful if you take multiple medications each day and at different times. There are many different types of pillboxes in the market, the most common of which is a seven-day pillbox.
Here is a step-by-step method on how to organise your medications:
Find a table or a large flat clean surface where you have plenty of space to work. Take all your chronic medication strips or bottles out.
Not all medications can be stored in pillboxes. Always check with your pharmacist if you can take a medication out of the original bottle it came in. It is also advisable to only pack your medications into pillboxes 1-2 weeks ahead as medications tend to have a shorter shelf-life once taken out of their original storage conditions. Check with your pharmacist whenever in doubt.
Using your most up-to-date medication list, group your medications to make filling your pillboxes easy. For example, you can group the medications to be taken in the morning as “AM” group, and the medications to be taking in the evening as “PM” group. For medications to be taken in the morning and evening, they can be placed in the third group, “APM group.”
Some medications may require more than one pill per dose. For example some medications require 2 pills per dose every morning, place 2 pills into each of the seven slots in the AM pillbox accordingly. If you are only required to take half a tablet per dose, it may be a good idea to use a pill cutter for your convenience.
Once you have finished organising your medications into pillboxes, it is always a good idea to have a family member or a friend to double-check the pillbox for you, based on your medication list.
Place your pillbox in a convenient location where you can easily remember to take your medications. Remember, your pillbox should be stored away from heat and moisture, and should not be within the reach of children.
Creating a support system
You may have family members or friends that are also taking chronic medications. Creating a team or a buddy system to help remind one another to take their doses can be an encouraging way of building a medication routine together. Having an encouraging support group makes the recovery journey a more enjoyable one.
Always adopt a strategy that works best for you. Sometimes, you may find that you are still missing doses of your medications despite using different routine strategies. Perhaps it could be due to a very complex medication regimen that you are not able to cope with. Always discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if there is any simpler way to lighten your medication regimen. For example, should you find it hard to take a medication two or three times per day, your doctor may be able to introduce an alternative medication that only needs to be taken once a day. Remember – your doctor and pharmacist are here to help you get the best possible outcomes from your medications. Do not be afraid to engage them for help.
From creating a medication list to understanding its benefits, to organising your medications at home and building your own medication routine, you need to find your very own motivation to stay organized and above your medications. Above all, taking your medication is just one component of a healthy lifestyle – “a happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing” – making good lifestyle choices like exercising and eating well contributes ultimately, to good health.
About the Author: This article is written by Vanessa Ong. Vanessa is a registered pharmacist with the Singapore Pharmacy Council. She spent several years in the inpatient setting in a local hospital. She enjoyed her time spent in the wards working with a dedicated healthcare team passionate about better patient outcomes. She strongly believes that evidence-based health information can be made simple so that the public can find joy in taking ownership of their health and live life to the fullest.
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