Several years ago, I had a problem with dramatically high blood pressure. I was prescribed three medications for that problem plus something else for anxiety. I clearly remember staring into the cupboard at all of my new prescription bottles and thinking, “Is this seriously my life from now on? Do I have to take all of these for the rest of my life?” It was truly defeating. My health had failed me. Life had taken a very wrong turn. Over time the prescriptions became a normal part of my daily routine, but I always kept them in the cupboard so I wouldn’t have to stare at them. Luckily for me, after two years I was diagnosed with a benign adrenal gland tumor that caused primary hyper aldosteronism, and all of the symptoms for which I had needed drugs. The tumor was removed and my symptoms went away. No more pills! Unfortunately, mine is not a common scenario, especially for people who are aging or have a chronic illness,
A year after my surgery, when the man I was caring for came home from the hospital, he brought many new prescriptions with him. Aside from the fact that it was slightly mind boggling for me to figure out how I was going to fit these medications with varying dosage schedules into his already long roster of pills, it was overwhelming to him. His medicine cabinet could not accommodate them all. “Jeez, how many pills do I have to take in a day?” he asked with despondence. It was discouraging to him for a number of reasons:
- He had swallowing problems and could take only one or two pills at a time with a spoonful of pudding. (Pudding is better than water because it allows the throat to have a chance to close the airway before the food comes down, helping to prevent choking.)
- He had come to hate pudding.
- He regarded all of the pills as a sign that his aggressive multiple sclerosis was winning the battle. He was afraid.
I remembered how I had felt staring at all of my pills. His mood was one of my top priorities, and although I couldn’t take him off of his medications, I could remove them from his sight so he would not have to stare at them all day. I took a wire CD holder with four sections and laid it down on its back on a table out of his range of sight. (If I had not had that CD holder, I would have used a decorative box or basket with a lid.) I used a permanent pen to write down the name of each medication on the lid of each prescription bottle and placed each bottle straight up in a portion of the CD holder. Each section represented morning, lunch, evening, or “as needed” pills.
To make medication management even easier, I used a large dry erase board to schedule each medication’s dispensing time and the dosage for the week. When I gave out the pills, I put a check by it. This was especially helpful in our situation because his family members would often want to give him pills during their visits and he could not remember what he needed to take. The chart reduced the chances of double or missed doses. As with the pill bottles, I kept the board out of his site so he could focus on more pleasant things.
Modern medicine is a life-saver for so many people. I was thankful to have medication when I needed it and I am equally grateful that my loved ones have access to it as well, yet no one needs a constant reminder of their illness or their prognosis. Put those ugly bottles away whether they are for you or your loved one. Do it in such a way that it enhances your organizational skills and does not hinder them, and everyone’s morale will be higher.