A pill organizer is a device that reminds people to take the right medication at the right time, and helps avoid medication mix-ups—like either taking too many or not enough pills. About 35 percent of people over age 75 who take three or more prescription drugs use a pill organizer. Pill organizers usually are square or cylindrical in shape and have compartments for each day of the week—to help seniors keep their pills organized. Some organizers have multiple sections, corresponding with different times of the day.
The August 31 blog described the health dangers—including falls—associated with switching from taking medications sporadically to taking medication regularly with a pill organizer. While pill organizers can help avoid medication errors, there must be a good fit between the user and the pill organizer, otherwise, the benefits of using a pill organizer will be lost, and may actually impair one’s health.
What to Look for in a Pill Organizer
When considering a pill organizer, it’s important to select an organizer that addresses the specific functional limitations of the user:
Poor Manual Dexterity
- For a person with arthritis and limited dexterity, organizers with pop-up or flip-up tops are the best. Be cautious of organizers with containers that click tightly shut and will be difficult to open.
- Organizers with covers that slide or twist off can be difficult to fit back into grooves, especially if the grooves are small and require precise movements to line them up.
- Organizers with very small compartments can make loading and retrieving pills difficult.
- Visual problems can make it hard to distinguish between pills of similar size, shape and color. Clear containers are often desirable, since pills can be viewed more easily.
- Braille coding is available on some organizers, and even for a non-Braille reader, the simple codes used for times of day can easily be learned.
- Consider the amount of space available on the organizer to label medications. Labeling is advisable, since it can provide healthcare professionals with important information in the event of an accident or illness.
- The complexity of medication regimens can cause difficulty remembering when to take pills. Devices that organize pills for an entire week, with compartments for a single or multiple dose, often work well. Another benefit of these organizers is their simplicity—no programming is involved.
- Some organizers offer auditory and/or visual cues to indicate the time to take medications. These devices range from simple timers to those that can record how often the dosage is taken, provide reminders for refills and doctor appointments, and even dispense medications. Many elders, even those with little or no experience with technology, have found these devices helpful.
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Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D., PA-C (or Dr. Rein as he is commonly referred to) is the president of FallPrevent, LLC, Blackwood, N.J., a consulting company that provides educational, legal and marketing services related to fall prevention in the elderly. Dr. Tideiksaar is a gerontologist (healthcare professional who specializes in working with elderly patients) and a geriatric physician's assistant. Check out Dr. Rein’s professional profile on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-rein/6/759/592. If you have any questions about preventing falls, please feel free to email Dr. Rein at firstname.lastname@example.org.