I find so many seniors in my dental office who are taking what seems like dozens of medications. When we go over their health histories and I reach the section about the medication types and dosages they are taking, I am often floored to see what is on their list.
Obviously, in cases like these, it wouldn’t be easy for them (or anyone!) to remember every medication that needs to be taken. *Helpful Hint: write down your medications and dosages, then put a copy in your wallet so you have it at all times. Include the pharmacy name and phone number. If you have a medical emergency, this is invaluable knowledge for both first responders and hospitals so that they know which medications they can and cannot give to you.
Thankfully, technology is here to help. These are the medication reminders and Smart Pill Dispensers that we think are worth the time to check into to see if they fit your situation.
Best Portable Reminder And Dispenser System: E-Pill Pocket Pillbox
The E-Pill Pocket Pillbox is a vibrating pill timer reminder and dispenser. Think of this product as a modern update on the traditional pill case (it’s so handy that it was even featured on Doctor’s TV).
The E-Pill Pocket Pillbox provides a vibration alert when it is time to take a medication. At the same time, it also gives an audible 30-second alarms to alert the senior. You can tap the snooze feature to repeat the alarms up to 3 times, for a total of four audible alarms.
The E-Pill Pocket Pillbox has the capacity to hold up to 32 aspirin-sized tablets, but it is lightweight and small light enough to fit into your shirt pocket or a purse.
The E-Pill Pillbox retails for around $25 (check price online here).
*TIP: If you are a senior who wears hearing aids or has a hard time hearing, E-Pill also has a lockable dispenser with a voice alert that says, “Time to take your medications.” My father couldn’t hear certain tones, despite wearing hearing aids in both ears, so this would be a very cool feature for someone like him.
Best At Home Dispenser And Reminder System: MedMinder
MedMinder is a 7-day pillbox system for those who want a smart pill dispenser that offers reminders plus mobile alerts. We like it because it is large – it has 28 compartments – so it can hold up to 4 daily doses of medication, which is enough for an entire week. It even has its own cellular connection so that it doesn’t have to be connected to a phone line or internet.
The pros: What is cool about this system is that when it is time to take a medication, the MedMinder will flash a light in the appropriate compartment. This makes it a great option for a hearing impaired senior.
If the person doesn’t remove the container within a certain time frame, the alert intensity really ratchets up. For the second reminder, MedMinder flashes the light and also gives an audible tone, as well as sending the senior their preference of digital reminders (either a text message or an email) or initiating a phone call.
If you are a caretaker for the senior or are an adult child, you can program the system remotely. In addition, it can be set up for remote monitoring and to alert a care provider if a dose is missed. MedMinder also generates monthly reports so caregivers can keep track of the senior’s medication activity.
We have been talking about the MedMinder unlocked version, but it also has a product with a safety lock feature so that children looking for candy or a senior with dementia won’t eat the medication by mistake.
The drawbacks: The system is not portable – it has to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Also, the MedMinder system is fairly expensive and requires a monthly subscription fee of around $45/month (non-locking dispenser) to $65/month (for the locking dispenser) as of 2019.
Best Medication Service (But, No Reminders!): PillPack By Amazon
PillPack is an Amazon service that takes away the need for having to go to the pharmacy to pick up or refill a prescription.
This service sorts the senior’s monthly prescriptions (including over the counter supplements) and puts them into easy-open packets. Each packet is clearly labeled with the day of the week and time of day the medication should be taken. PillPack will also handle creams, inhalers, and testing supplies for the senior.
You can’t beat the price – the service and shipping are both free. The senior only pays their regular insurance copays, just like they would normally have to do in a traditional pharmacy. They also will need to pay out of pocket for any non-prescription medications (think Tylenol) or supplements and vitamins that they wish to include in the monthly service.
If the senior needs something ASAP, PillPack also offers 1 day service.
At Home Reminders That Are Worth Discussing (But, No Dispensers!): Amazon’s Echo, Echo Plus, And Echo Dot
These devices can be set up to give medication reminders (see how to do this in item #12 in our article, How Can Alexa Help Seniors?). Since so many of us already have these devices in our homes, they offer a quick way to get your medication reminders – however these systems are only for use within the home (and won’t actually dispense the medications).
Runner Up: Pill Reminder Tops And Timer Caps For Prescription Bottles
Pill Reminder Tops can be set with up to 24 reminders per day (the reminders can only be set to the hour, though – not to a more specific time, like 10:24 a.m. If this is a problem, you can get around it by changing the time on bottle – set it back (or forward) 15 or 30 minutes, then the alarms will go off at what they “think” is on the hour!). The alarms repeat daily and the caps run on a LR 44 Button cell (included).
These tops record the last time the prescription bottle was opened and will fit on any medication bottle with a “standard 33 mm thread pharmaceutical closure”. The tops come with a prescription bottle, though, just in case they do not fit on yours.
The Reminder Tops feature a flashing “missed dose” indicator, but a drawback is that they are not child proof.
Timer Caps have a stopwatch and a digital display that shows the last time the bottle was closed. The stopwatch starts automatically when the top is put back on the bottle and continues to count up until the next time the pill bottle is opened, at which time it resets.
You don’t have to program them or set any alarms, but they can help seniors avoid taking a medication twice because of forgetting whether they took it the first time. It also serves a secondary purpose of letting them know if anyone else has opened the medication (it is a theft deterrent) and will alert caregivers if someone tampered with the bottle.
Medication Management For Caregivers
In addition to the tools and services outlined above, there are a few other ways of providing medication management for caregivers:
- Day labeled pill boxes. That hold up to a one-week supply of medications. These are typically labeled with the days of the week and the period of the day (morning or breakfast, etc) in which the medication should be taken.
- Blister Packs or individually packaged doses: The pharmacy takes care of packaging one day’s worth of pills (or all the pills that need to be taken together at a certain time, such as at breakfast or dinner) into a blister pack. This way, the senior doesn’t have to open numerous bottles. It is similar to the Amazon PillPack service mentioned above, under the Best Medication Service section. Unlike with Amazon, the senior or caregiver will still have to visit the pharmacy to get their medications (Amazon’s service delivers it for free, right to the senior’s door).
- Alarmed pill boxes: These devices give an alarm to remind caregivers of when the senior is due to take their medications.