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Not knowing when, or for how long to take medicines.

Question:
Not knowing when, or for how long to take medicines.
Answer:

Remembering when to take a medicine

Forgetting to take medicines (or forgetting if we have already taken medicine) happens to us all. So it's a really good idea to find tips and tricks to help us to remember what to take and when to take it.

If you have a smart phone or a smart speaker with apps such as 'Alexa' or 'Siri' you can use them to set reminders to take medicines.

One good idea is to tie your medicine doses with a daily routine like:

  • breakfast time
     
  • after a shower
     
  • when getting ready for bed

If you do that, try to keep the medicines in a place that acts as a reminder (like near the kettle, or by your toothbrush).

If medicine needs to be stored in the refrigerator, consider posting a sticky note reminder on the fridge as a reminder to take it when it's time.

Medicine reminder charts

Pharmacists recommend that medicine reminder charts are the best way of keeping track of doses of medicine. They are also sometimes known as medicine administration records (MARs).

Reminder charts are particularly helpful because they:

remind you of the actual times during their day to take your medicines

show which medicines can be taken at the same time. This helps to reduce the number of different times you take medicine per day

help you to link the taking of medicine to routine daily activities

This example uses meal times, but 'cleaning teeth' or 'reading the morning paper' may be more helpful.

You may be able to make the chart up yourself from the different medicine instructions. If not, it's worth asking at your local pharmacy, as they may be able to print you out a chart based on your own prescription.

You can also buy special dispensing boxes that you can put your pills in. Some of these are automated and can even remind you when to take your medicine. Take a look at our ‘interactive house’ to find out about the range of equipment that’s available. These can be really helpful if the ideas above don't work, but it's better not to take the medicines out of their original packaging until you need them, so pharmacists strongly recommend you try something like a medicine reminder chart first.

How long should you take your medicine for?

People sometimes think that when their medicine pack or bottle finishes, they don’t need the medicine anymore. Or they may think that they can stop taking their medicine if they start feeling a bit better.

For example, people have been known to stop taking blood pressure tablets after one month's supply and then think they don’t need them anymore. They do!

Many medicines are meant to be taken for long periods of time or even for the rest of your life. Suddenly stopping taking some medicines can be really dangerous. It's very important to keep taking a regular prescription medicine and not stop until you have checked with your doctor.

If you have a short course of antibiotics, it's also important to finish all of it to reduce the risk of developing antibiotic resistances.

If in doubt, ask your pharmacist. They will be able to check your prescription and will let you know if you need to talk to your doctor about continuing to use the medicine.

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