Best Way to do Elderly Medication Reminders?

by Mary
(Columbus, Ohio)

My mother has been living on her own with no apparent problems, she was recently hospitalized and we moved her into a retirement community.

She's been there on her own for the past 3 days, I go every day at lunch & today I saw that she took her meds 3 times, is there something I can do to help her remind herself not to take her elderly medication more than once... she has a pill reminder box with the day of the week on it but I guess that didn't help.

I tried to reassure her that she needs to get into a new routine and that if she has doubts that she should call me but she doesn't want to bother me at work, she's very stubborn. I'm worried about her....


REPLY from

Thank you for your question, Mary. It sounds like memory loss is making it difficult for your mother to manage her medications properly. With that in mind, and not knowing the extent of the impairment, I would suggest trying a few different methods:

1) If the pill reminder box is not working, try having her medications blister packed. See the section on elderly medications for more information. Most pharmacies provide this service and it really does make it easier to take medications on time and to know that they have been taken (for both your mom and you).

2) You can suggest your mom link her medications with a daily routine. Either an already existing routine or a new one. For example, you may encourage her to take her medications with a meal (if the medications are to be taken once a day) or with each meal (if the medications need to be taken several times a day). Or you could suggest that she start a new routine, such as crossing off each day of the month on a calendar with a big X and have a note on the calendar each day to remind her to take her medications. Suggest she take her medications right after she reads this or does this.

3) If this doesn't work, and you have time, you can try convincing her to only take her medications when you call her once a day on the telephone.

4) If none of these suggestions work, you may have to consider paying someone to do her medication management. This may involve having a lock box for her medications that you can access and give her daily or pay someone to do it for you.

I understand none of these methods seems easy when you have an independent parent but talk through your concerns with her and perhaps you can agree on a strategy together.

Also, be sure to review her medications with her doctor and pharmacist to ensure there is no negative interactions, that all her medications are necessary and if they have any suggestions to make her medication management easier (such as taking them once a day rather than twice).

Other readers are welcome to add any suggestions or tips to help Mary out.

Thank you,

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