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Taking Medicines as Prescribed - Overcoming Barriers to Taking Your Medicines

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"I forget when and how to take all of these medicines."

"Sometimes I just forget to take my medicines."

What you can do

  • Ask your doctor which medicines you are taking and why you are taking them, and then make a list. If you understand what you are taking and how it is helping you, it may be easier to stay on schedule. Complete a master list of medicines(What is a PDF document?), and keep it up to date. At every visit with your doctor, review your master list of medicines.
  • Plan a daily schedule of medicines. Be sure you understand how much of each medicine to take and when to take each one. Put your schedule somewhere where you will always see it and where it’s easy to find. Take it along when you travel. Write down your daily medicine schedule in a form that has spaces for time entries(What is a PDF document?).
  • Use a pillbox. Get a pillbox that holds a week's worth of pills. This may be especially helpful if you are taking pills every other day.
  • Remind yourself. Post notes near clocks or on the bathroom mirror to remind you to take your medicines. Use a wristwatch with an alarm, and set it when you need to take your medicine. Take the medicine when you do a daily task, such as brushing your teeth or making your coffee.
  • Ask your doctor whether you can take a longer-acting medicine instead of a shorter-acting one. This means you'll be able to take fewer pills. This may make it easier for you to remember to take your medicines.
  • If you use several inhaler medicines, put a label on each one so that you know which one to use at the right time.
  • Talk with your doctor about what you should do if you miss a dose of a medicine. Discuss what to do for each medicine—it may be different for each one.

For more information, see the topic Keeping Track of Medicines.

Concerns

"I keep getting interrupted before I can take my medicine."

"My schedule keeps changing, so it's hard to remember to take my medicine."

What you can do

  • Ask the person interrupting you to wait while you take your medicine.
  • Keep your medicine in your hand. You will be more likely to take it later.
  • Will the schedule change affect your medicine schedule? Be sure to make time to take your medicine.
  • Place a reminder someplace where you will see it, such as in your car or on a house key.

Concern

"I run out of my medicine."

What you can do

  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how long your medicine will last. Then mark on a calendar when you need to get a refill of your medicine.
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a large supply of medicine with many refills. For example, if you're taking a medicine long-term, ask for a 3-month supply with a year’s worth of refills.
  • Ask your pharmacist if there are ways the pharmacy can remind you to refill your medicines so you don't run out.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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