What do I toss? How do I keep prescriptions organized?
Guest post by Leslie Vandever
Whether your medicine cabinet is stocked with casual cold medications or you’re managing multiple prescriptions for a chronic illness, it can be tough to keep things organized. If you have a serious illness, you may find yourself with a lot of different medications to take, each of them scheduled for different doses at different times each day. Remembering when and how to take them—indeed, remembering to take them at all—can be a real challenge. Here are some ways to make it all a lot easier.
Know Your Medications
Make sure you understand why you’re taking each drug, including any over-the-counter medications or supplements. Keep dosage and general information about the drug that comes with your prescription in a three-ring binder with a tab and separating page for each one.
Make a master list of your medications to put at the front of your binder, with a copy for your refrigerator or bulletin board. The list should include the name of the medicine, what it’s for, what dosage to take, when to take it, and how many times each day.
By keeping an up-to-date list of medications in a binder, you’ll always know where to look if you have questions.
Use a Pill Organizer
Pill organizers are simple plastic boxes with compartments for each day of the week, marked S, M, T, W, Th, F, and S. Most also include compartments for different times each day. You fill the organizer each week with the pills you take in the morning in the compartment marked “A.M.”, those taken at noon in the compartment marked “NOON,” your late afternoon doses in the compartment marked “EVE,” and the before bed meds and doses in the “P.M.” compartment. You can find many different types of pill organizers at your local drugstore or online.
Color Code Your Meds
Get a set of different colored felt pens and use one color for morning, one for noon, one for evening, and one for nighttime. Then, put all the medicines of each color next to each other so it’s easy to grab, say, your three morning meds, each marked with yellow felt-tip.
Talk with Your Health Care Team
If you have trouble with your medicines, have forgotten to take a dose and aren’t sure whether to take it or skip it, or if you have concerns about side effects, get in touch with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you the best information about how to take your meds.
Disposing of Unused Medications
What do you do with expired medicine or prescriptions you no longer need to take? To dispose of them properly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests:
- Community drug ‘take-back’ programs. This is the best way to dispose of unneeded medications. Contact your city or county government trash and recycling department by phone or through their website and ask about local programs. Local fire departments often offer hazardous waste collection days, during which you can turn in unneeded drugs for proper disposal. Contact your local station and ask.
- If there’s no take-back program where you live, you can mix your unneeded pills into something undesirable, like used cat litter or wet coffee grounds. Place the mixture in a sealed bag or can, and dispose of it with the rest of your trash.
- The FDA says you can flush certain medications down the toilet or sink. To see a list of which ones, click here.
- Check the information that came with your medication for disposal instructions, or talk to your pharmacist for advice.
About our guest contributor:
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California where she writes for Healthline.
- Keeping Your Medications Organized. (2012, August 25) National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on October 8, 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000600.htm.
- Organizing Medications. (2009) The Complete Caregiver. Retrieved on October 8, 2014 from http://www.thecompletecaregiver.com/org_meds
- Managing Medications. (n.d.) M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved on October 8, 2014 from http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-topics/dealing-with-cancer-treatment/managing-medications/index.html
- How to Dispose of Unused Medicines. (2014, May 19) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved on October 20, 2014 from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm101653.htm