How many of you are take medication on a regular basis?
There are many reasons any of us might be on maintenance drugs that we need to take every day: hormonal birth control, psychiatric medication, antihistamines, statins, asthma inhalers, acid reducers, and more. The benefits of some may be debatable, and others may merely be for our convenience to make life a little bit less difficult. But some are necessary to our survival because we need them so much to function or, in some cases, even to live. That makes it vital to manage them appropriately, on a number of levels.
Managing medication has a number of meanings, and a number of hard-won lessons for those of us who have been doing it for years. A few of mine are:
Consistent timing matters for many drugs to work most effectively. In order to support that, you need to find a way to ensure that your medication schedule meshes with how the rest of your daily schedule works. There may be more ideal times of day to take certain drugs, but you won’t be able to take advantage of that if you can never get around to taking them then anyway. Instead, figure out when you will be most likely on most days be able to remember and take your meds, and choose that time. If you need to take multiple pills multiple times a day, see if you can combine them into only two or three sets of pills instead of trying to juggle every medication and its own schedule separately. For me, this has long meant taking most of my meds at night before bed, because bedtime moves around less than wake-up time for me. I also have used alarms on my phone or watch to ensure that I remember my drugs, or used pill organizers or similar tools to ensure that I haven’t forgotten to dose up one day.
Many maintenance drugs are prescription-only. With insurance and other limitations, not to mention what happens when we get busy and distracted, that means most of us get close to running out every month or every quarter. That can be disastrous. To avoid having to do without, and all of the negative consequences that can follow, it’s worthwhile to do some work up front to ensure you have a stockpile to draw from when there are unavoidable delays in getting your refills. Auto-delivery can be a wonderful strategy here, especially since many of those services will start the process as early as your prescription and insurance allow, building in time for potential problems in filling and shipping your meds right to your door. You can also manually get at least your first months of a prescription refilled as early as permissible so that you will soon have several weeks or more extra to work your way through before you are in dire need of more. If cost or availability are issues, work with your doctor on creative prescribing and to see if they can help you find other alternatives. One of my doctors also recently mentioned to me it’s worth calling around to pharmacies to do some comparisons on cash cost without insurance, as even neighboring stores can have wildly different prices. Just make sure that you rotate your pills so that you are always using the oldest ones first.
Shortages are not only driven by how many pills you have in your total stash. Unless you can guarantee you will always be home when you need to take your drugs, you will always run the danger of not having what you need with you when you need it. Even if it’s just a single overnight or weekend trip, it’s very possible – even easy – to forget your pills on either end of your travels. You might be able to go back and get them, or delay your dose, or get an emergency refill. It will certainly cost you time, money, and stress at best. Better to split your supply so that you are more likely to simply have your meds with you when you need them, regardless of the circumstances. If you are packing for a particular trip, that might mean planning to bring a pill organizer with what you need and a little extra while leaving the rest at home in case you lose your luggage. If your travel is less predictable or you are out and about often, having an emergency bottle of pills in your purse or a medicine cabinet at home may cost you a bit of money, but will be easier on your nerves so you don’t have to worry about getting to your main supply until time is at less of a premium.
Not everyone is on a regular medication schedule, but for most of us, it’s a matter of time before we hit on that, whether for lifetime maintenance meds or a shorter but no less vital period. If you, like me, are one of the ones who have to manage drugs on a daily basis, what other tips do you have?