Did You Remember to Take Your Medicine?


A certain amount of forgetfulness is to be expected with age. And forgetting to take medication (or not remembering whether you took it) is a common occurrence, especially for people who are older or who take multiple drugs. Missing a dose or inadvertently double dosing can have consequences ranging from minor to serious.

While the minor memory lapses that occur with age-associated memory impairment can’t be eliminated, using memory aids can help ensure that important tasks, such as taking your medicine, are not forgotten. For example, you can put Post-It notes around the house, keep the pill bottles out on the counter, or use simple pill box organizers.  If those methods aren’t working, one of these jazzier options might fill the bill.

  • Pillboxes with alarms. There are many models, varying in complexity and price—from around $10 to $100 or more. Look for one that lets you set multiple alarms, has big enough compartments to hold all your meds, and (if this is helpful to you) has a light that blinks until you open up the pill compartment.
  • Smart pill bottle/Smart bottle cap. Sold under brand names including TimerCap ($20), Pillsy ($45), and iRemember ($50), these are special bottles or caps (designed to fit on a standard medication bottle) with flashing lights, chimes, ringtones, or other features to remind you to take the medication—or alert you if you reopen the bottle after having already taken the med. Some can send text messages and voice reminders to your smartphone.
  • Mobile apps. Hundreds of drug-reminder apps are available for iPhone or Android devices, many of them free. Features include text and email reminders, missed dose alerts, and messages when it’s time for a refill. Some let you add other users, such as a spouse or caregiver.
  • Talking alarm clocks. One such device, Reminder Rosie ($80 to $100), allows you to set as many as 25 different reminders in your own voice or a caregiver’s (for instance, “Dad, take three blue pills and one white pill now”). The large digital display and lack of bells and whistles may appeal to people who favor lower-tech devices. Other talking alarm clocks are available, though with fewer reminder options (and not all allow you to record your own voice).
  • Wristwatches. Watches geared specifically toward medication adherence, such as Cadex ($140), can be programmed for up to 12 different daily alarms, with an optional digital message that scrolls across the watch face. There are less expensive options, too, including some that vibrate. If you already have an Apple Watch or Fitbit, you can use its built-in reminder function.

Don’t like gadgets? Some pharmacies will presort your medication into single-use blister packs or pill pouches with the date and time that each should be taken (called reminder packaging). The mail-order pharmacy PillPack does this, too. If you have insurance, the cost is the same as your usual prescription copay.