Regular medication taking is common and it is not uncommon for people to miss an occasional dose or take it outside of the usual time window. Forgetting to do something is normal, but in the case of medications, forgetting to take them at the prescribed time can have negative health effects.
According to one estimate, about half of the population of people who take medication regularly do not take it as prescribed. Is it a communication breakdown? A lack of understanding of their importance? Forgot?
Broadly, the reasons for not taking medications as prescribed can be categorized into two types: intentional and unintentional.
Unintentional is when a patient intends to follow the prescribed regimen but does not do so due to factors beyond their control, including forgetfulness, difficulty understanding dosage instructions, or cost.
But for some, a patient consciously decides not to follow the prescribed diet. This may be due to side effects or disbelief of the drug.
Taking medication is complex because each person is unique and each person’s challenges with taking medication can vary greatly. The most effective strategy is one that also considers why a person is not taking their medication. What are some of the support strategies available and are they actually helpful?
The most common methods used to support medication adherence are organizational strategies such as day-of-the-week pill boxes.
These are functional if a patient has to take many different medications.
But they are not always suitable: if the user does not fill the container correctly or does not remember to remove the pre-filled pack (called Webster-pak, blister or pod box) at the pharmacy, this simple intervention quickly becomes ineffective . .
Some medications cannot be packaged because their stability is compromised by repackaging, and patients with impaired sight or dexterity may have difficulty using these containers.
So, while an effective prompt, simple reminders like pill boxes showing the days of the week may not be for everyone.
Another commonly used reminder method is preset alarms.
However, this strategy is not foolproof, and the literature shows that many patients miss medication doses when not routine because they unknowingly turn off their alarm when busy with another task.
Reminder alarms only seem effective when interactive or personalized.
For example, in a convenient combination of the two methods above, you can now purchase automated pill dispensers with alarms that go off at predetermined times and only stop when the medication is withdrawn.
These can be particularly useful for people with memory problems such as dementia. However, they aren’t cheap, costing a few hundred dollars each, so won’t be available to everyone.
The latest Apple iOS update lets you track your medications and schedule reminders.
Medication reminder apps were first developed to help seniors and people with chronic illnesses manage multiple medications.
But they have now been adopted as a suitable support for anyone wishing to independently manage their own medications, including those on short-term medications such as antibiotics.
They provide simple, practical health information and make taking medication easier through automation.
According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, many patients enjoy receiving reminders through an app, which helps them remember to take their medications.
Although the platforms differ slightly, the general principle is that a patient independently enters their medication and prescription refill schedule, and the app then generates automatic reminders for the patient.
The only downside is that, like any notification, they can be easily dismissed or ignored.
When our day changes, for example if we go out for brunch and usually take our meds with breakfast, or an unexpected visitor arrives at the usual 11 a.m. time before lunch, we often forget our meds. . This is where “habit stacking” can be beneficial.
Although habit stacking is a relatively new approach to promoting medication intake, habit formation has been repeatedly shown to effectively promote well-being. Linking taking medication to a behavior that does not change from day to day, such as brushing your teeth or taking off your shoes when entering the house, can help you remember the medications.
Other examples of habit stacking to support taking medication may include:
• hygiene routine – showering, shaving, swallowing
• after dinner relax – cup of tea and medicine
• morning mantra when leaving the house – keys, phone, wallet, medicine.
What else can we do?
We’re all unique, so to make sure we’re actually taking our medications, we need to find what works for us and think about why we weren’t actually taking them in the first place.
Reminders, gadgets, habit stacking, or a combination can help. We need strategies that can adapt to the unexpected.