“Whether you’re on a short-term drug therapy — like taking antibiotics for 10 days — or take medication to treat a chronic or ongoing condition, it’s important to take it as prescribed” says Judith Choquette, a pharmacist and pharmacy consultant. “But it can be easy to forget or not remember if you have or haven’t.”
To help keep you on track when it comes to taking your medication, Judith offers the following timely advice.
Keeping your meds straight
Many of us have resorted to counting the pills left in our prescription bottle to try to determine if we've taken all our pills that day. But that doesn't always work.
"What does work is to tie-in your medication with a daily activity or habit," advises Judith Choquette. Here are her top tips:
- Once a day — take it in the morning, with breakfast. This works because the morning is usually the most stable time for people and you won't have to think about it for the rest of the day.
- Twice a day — breakfast and supper.
- Three times a day — when you get up, midway through your day and at bedtime.
- Alarm yourself — if your mobile phone is always within reach, program an alarm to beep when it's pill-taking time.
- Prep for the day — if you're spending the day at home, leave your meds out where you can see them; for example, by your toothbrush for your bedtime dose.
- Pill cases — will help you separate out your medication for seven days. You can find them with one, two, three or more compartments for every day of the week. "If you need help, your pharmacist may prepare pill cases for you on a weekly basis," she says.
- Pill cards — make it easy to keep your prescriptions straight. Printed with your name, the medication enclosed and when it's to be taken, these cards are actually little packs pre-filled by your pharmacist. If you're going out for lunch one day, you can rip off the lunch pill card and have all your mid-day meds with you. And they're great when you're travelling.
Prescription medication tracker
Use this weekly prescription medication tracker to help you get organized. For each day of the week:
- Write down the name of the medication(s) you're taking.
- Indicate when you should be taking that medication and the quantity you need to take.
- When you've taken the medication at the prescribed time, strike out or put a checkmark through the appropriate box.
- If you need more help to remember to take your meds, speak to your pharmacist.
Other important considerations
While remembering to take your meds, there are a few other considerations that will help your medication do what it's supposed to do and keep you safe:
- A good attitude goes a long way. No matter what method you use, sticking to the prescribed schedule is important. If you don't think taking the medication is doing you any good, if you feel better and think you can stop taking it or if you have any concerns or doubts, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Know the side effects. Your doctor and pharmacist will likely tell you of any side effects. If you do experience any, let them know. In some cases, side effects may be avoided — your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how.
- Be wary of counterfeit. Judith also stresses the importance of getting your medication from a trusted source — your pharmacy. "Counterfeit drugs can look like the real thing — right down to the logo on the pill itself — but can be very dangerous," she advises. "You may think you're saving a few pennies by buying medication online but there's no guarantee as to what you're getting. Because counterfeit drugs do not use the real ingredients, they can be harmful for your health."
Since any medication can have a positive and negative effect on your health, it's important to play it safe, follow directions and work with your doctor and pharmacist to make the most of your treatment.
Use the following links to find out more about taking medication, working with your pharmacist and to access a printable medication tracker.