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Posted: June 06, 2005

Practical Caregiving

Pill Dispensers Can Avoid Serious Meds Mixups

When our parents, spouse, friends, and other loved ones get older and still live in their own home, there are certain situations we don't want. Sometimes we think about them and worry about them, but we don't know what to do. Other times there are easy solutions to what might be a problem.

One such situation is medicine management. Putting it simply, our loved ones need to take the correct medicine at the correct time. If they take their medicine too soon, or double up on the doses because they think they forgot to take it, they can end up in the hospital -- or worse. It is extremely important to make sure they are taking their medicines at the correct time.

When I first started taking care of Mom and Dad, I just assumed that they were taking their medicines correctly. It didn't take long to see that Dad was trying his best, but sometimes the medicines were missed, and sometimes he gave a second pill to Mom or himself a couple hours after the first dose -- because he thought he had forgotten it at the right time. If I had known then what I do now, I would have purchased something to help him manage the medicines. But I didn't. Don't make the mistake I did. Prepare to avoid this potentially serious -- or even deadly -- problem before it occurs. Then, when the need arises, your loved one will be accustomed to that way of managing their medicines.

I searched the Web to find what's available. I thought I would find three or four different devices for managing medicines -- but I found many more. I am going to tell you about some of the devices I found and where to learn more about them. If you want to find more yourself, type in phrases like medicine dispensers, pill box or pill dispenser. Since you are the one that understands the situation that concerns you, you are the one who must evaluate the different devices to determine which one would work best for your loved one.

If your loved one is alert but gets busy with other things and doesn't think about their medicine, then the simple plastic box with compartments for each day -- and parts of the day -- might be the answer for you. These boxes can be purchased in almost any store or pharmacy that sells over-the-counter medicines. Some have one compartment for one day. Some has several compartments for one day. Whether it applies to you or your loved one, someone needs to sit down once a week and divide the pills into daily doses by placing them into the compartments of the box. This way, our elderly can see if they have taken their pill that day. If they were supposed to take a pill at 8:00 am, they can look at the box at noon to see that they took it. If the pill is still there, they should know what to do.

The next device is a new product created to help with the pill boxes described above. When you are retired or don't work, the days seem to run together, and sometimes it's hard to remember what day of the week it is. I found that happening to me when I was taking care of my parents while we were traveling, so it doesn't have anything to do with something ability to think clearly. It doesn't mean your loved one is "loosing it" -- it just means they don't have anything to separate Monday from Thursday. This product is called DayTeller. In large letters, it tells what day of the week it is. In smaller letters below that it gives the actual date. Below that in numbers that are the same size as the day of the week, it displays the time. It is very easy to read, and your loved one can probably read it even without their glasses. I searched the Web, but only found one website with this type of thing. It is:

There are more pill dispensing machines than I list below, but I left some out because they dispense the medicine regardless of whether it is actually taken. If it is missed, then it dispenses the next scheduled medicine into the same area. Be careful with these dispensers because pills can accumulate and all be taken at one time. This could pose a real danger.

Now, on to pill dispensers or boxes with alarms and much, much more.

There are the 7 Day Organizer & Reminder and the Multi-Alarm Pill Box. These are similar to the plastic pillbox with compartments for the pills, but they also have audible alarms you can set as a reminder to take the pills.

The MedReady Medication Reminder & Dispenser will automatically advance to the next dose you are to take if a dose is missed. There is an alarm and optional strobe light to alert a person it is time for their meds. It will connect to a telephone line, and the caregiver can access the secure website via a computer to review what medication has been dispensed to the patient. It also can call up to three phone numbers as an alert if a medicine dose is missed. There is a monthly charge for some of the services. This device has 28 compartments -- for four weeks -- that can be loaded with pills. Only the most recent dose is available.

The MD.2 Automatic Pill Dispenser holds pills for 60 doses, which is 3-4 weeks for most people. It will not let someone take their medicine early, and it will let them know it is time to take their medicine through voice, text, and visual light signals. It automatically advances to the next scheduled dose if you miss one. Only the most recent dose is available. You can view the dispensing activity over a secure website via your computer. It will also give special instructions for each medicine, such as "take only with food." There is a monthly charge for some of the services, and only the most recent dose is available. MD.2 can be purchased from several websites, or for other rental or purchase options call a company representative at 1-877-563-2632. The company website is: Some states offer programs that will pay for the MD.2. Contact your Department of Human Services to ask about waivers or other reimbursement possibilities.

Here are some of the websites that sell anywhere from simple pill boxes to the highly sophisticated MD.2:

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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