ARTICLES / General /
Pill Organizers /
The AARP says that 78 percent of caregivers
performing medical or nursing tasks also are
managing multiple medications for a loved one.
Thirty-one percent of the care population takes
one to five medications; 46 percent, five to
nine; and 18 percent, 10 or more medications.
It's no big secret to caregivers that
organization is key when keeping track of
medications, their doses, refills, timing, etc.
It can be a job in itself. In fact, a 2011 study
by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of
Medicine found that 60 percent of caregivers
made errors when sorting medications into pill
Weekly organizers are the most common, but
monthly ones are available. These all can be
bought in a variety of sizes, colors, labeling
methods, etc. For those with minor memory
issues, a morning/evening organizer may provide
enough direction. A loved one with more advanced
memory impairment might find help in other
options, such as a prescription bottle that
tracks and tells caregivers if the day's doses
have been removed.
Electronic pill organizers are becoming more
popular, and help by issuing an actual alarm
when it's time to take the medication, as well
as have a service place a phone call to the
caregiver if a dosage is missed. This is a good
option for busy caregivers who can pre-load the
pills, but have some reassurance that the
following steps are completed. This is also a
help to someone with vision loss, who may not be
able to see traditional pill box markings or
times on a clock.
Another innovative device on the market is a
vibrating pill reminder that has large
compartments which fit all a loved one's
medications. Programmable alarms help them stay
on track, and can be set for either audio or
Severe memory-impaired loved ones truly need
one-on-one human interaction for medication
administration, though some aging service
organizations offer reminder phone calls to
those with memory concerns.
Blister packs also are available in different
shapes and sizes and have a list of pros and
cons. While they are a nice option for someone
with a steady medication regimen, for a loved
one that is changing meds often, it can become a
costly and time-consuming endeavor. The most
practical use is a one-week supply in a single
card that is organized into morning, noon,
evening, and bedtime doses. Pharmacies
traditionally will dispense four cards at a
time, for a month's worth of pills organized
neatly into pop-out compartments.
Blister packs can also be purchased privately,
for refilling directly by a caregiver. The bonus
to this is that caregivers can add
over-the-counter medications such as aspirin — a
service the pharmacy would charge extra to do.
All this said, a caregiver should have a solid
relationship with their loved one's pharmacist.
Some pharmacies routinely will sort the pills,
while others offer education on the best way to
get started. Caregivers also should keep updated
lists of all a loved one's medicines, and have a
copy with themselves and the person they are
Pill organizers can be found anywhere and in
many configurations. Before making any purchase,
a caregiver must consider their and their loved
one's lifestyle, limitations and abilities.