I’ve done a lot of work on medication adherence and helping people to remember to take their medications as prescribed. When we’ve asked people who sometimes have trouble remembering their medications why, over half of them give some reason related to routine. Examples include:
- I travel a lot
- My schedule is not consistent
- I just forget
The good thing about these types of issues being the most common ones is that they’re also relatively easy to address. Here are six techniques to try to help you remember your medications, even when your routine is out of whack.
1. Piggyback your pills onto another habit.
If you frequently forget your medication, think about something in your daily routine you always remember. For some people, it’s making coffee at home. For others, it’s brushing their teeth at night. Put your medication (or a reminder post-it note) next to the coffeepot or toothbrush where you will definitely see it every day. I put my medications right next to my alarm clock, and I never forget to take them first thing in the morning when I am home. Which leads to my next tip . . .
2. Recreate your home routine on the road.
Like the people we survey, I tend to forget my medication sometimes when I travel. I may pack it but then forget to pull it out of my suitcase. I’ve discovered the best way for me to remember when I’m out of town is to mimic what I do at home: I put my travel pill box right next to my alarm clock where I will see it first thing in the morning.
3. Set an alarm.
Smartphones have made this tip simple, since now most of us carry an alarm clock in our pockets. Set an alarm for the time(s) of day you need to take your meds. If your phone allows it, name the alarm something like “Take your medicine!” so you will remember what it’s for. If you’re traveling, you may want to consider changing the alarm by the number of hours the time zone has changed (if your medication needs to be taken at the same time every day).
4. Use an app.
There are tons of free and low cost smartphone apps available to help with medication adherence. They all work a little differently, so explore them to see which ones will fit your lifestyle best. One group did a study to rank the various apps and pick the best ones; their top 10 or 20 list might be a good place to start. If you’d like to amp up the technology . . .
5. Buy a high-tech helper.
The Apple Watch will be compatible with a number of health apps that can assist in remembering your medication. Among its other capabilities, Amazon’s Echo can set reminders for you. I saw a demonstration of how Smartstones, a really simple and lovely decorative pebble, can be used to remind people to take medication and transmit that information to caregivers. And Vitality’s GlowCaps actually integrate with your pill bottles to provide reminders and store adherence information. The latter two technologies also support my final adherence tip . . .
6. Enlist your army.
Social support can make or break behavior change. Call on yours to help. If you’re into technology, consider one of the devices that lets a family member know you’ve been taking your medication. The accountability will help you remember, and if you forget, someone knows to remind you. Ask your kids or spouse to give you verbal reminders. They can even stash some of your extra medication in a purse in case you forget to bring it with you.
What helps you turn your medications into a daily habit? What are your best tips for maintaining a routine when life is not predictable?