Imagine this: it’s been an intense morning of negotiating outfit choices with your four-year-old, getting them to daycare on time, then powering through non-stop meetings at the office. Then suddenly, somewhere around 3pm, you realise, “I can’t remember if I took my medication today!”
If that sounds like you, don’t worry. You’re in very good company. Forgetting medication is actually pretty common, especially when life gets hectic or something disrupts your regular routine. (Perhaps that four-year-old’s Spider-Man costume is in the wash, and he won’t wear anything else to preschool!)
So how can you remember to take your medication and quickly get back to your healthy habits, even when you’re super busy? Here are six expert tips.
1. The best medication reminder? Knowing your ‘why’
Nutritionist and pharmacist from healthylife, Sarah Gray thinks that educating yourself about the medication you take is essential. “If you understand why it's important to take your medication, you're more likely to keep taking it,” she says.
Knowing the ‘why’ helps you to stay on track, especially with medications that don't directly affect how your body feels. Sarah uses the example of blood pressure medications. “People don't feel any different after they’ve taken their pills, because they can’t feel the effects of high blood pressure until it goes right through the roof.”
In other words, if a medication doesn’t immediately make you feel different, it’s easier to forget to take it. To avoid this, Sarah recommends empowering yourself on your health journey by asking your doctor or pharmacist to explain exactly what each medication does for you.
Taking your medication at the same – or a similar time – each day creates a healthy routine that will naturally help you to remember.
2. Take your pills at the same time, in the same place
Taking your medication at the same – or a similar time – each day creates a healthy routine that will naturally help you to remember. But more than this, it will help you to get the most out of that medication.
“Taking your medication at the same time (or same times – check the pack!) each day ensures that the amount in your body stays at the right level,” Sarah comments. If you take it much earlier in the day than you did yesterday, you might end up with too much in your body. If you take it much later, your body might not have enough.
The place you keep your medication can help to jog your memory too. “I recommend keeping it near something you use a lot,” says Sarah. “If you need to take your pills first thing in the morning or last thing at night, try keeping them near your toothbrush. That means you’ll see them at least twice a day when you brush your teeth.”
Another perfect location for your meds is on the kitchen bench, right next to the coffee machine. It’s much harder to forget your morning coffee than it is your morning medication.
Your trusty phone alarm can be one of the best reminders to take your medication. Of course, you have to remember to set the alarm in the first place.
3. Start using a pillbox
Routines are great to make habits stick, but sometimes things can get a little… well… routine. Once you’ve got a daily routine down, the challenge becomes remembering that you have already taken your pill today, rather than forgetting it in the first place.
A pill or dosette box can help you to see exactly what you’ve taken at a glance. Either:
- buy a daily, weekly or four-weekly pillbox that you fill yourself, or
- head to the pharmacy and ask them to fill one up for you
Whichever you choose, Sarah recommends filling it up at the beginning of your week so you have it as a reminder. That way, she says, “You’ll immediately know if you’ve missed one – and you don’t need to worry about double-dosing. The box will help you to remember whether you’ve taken a pill or not.”
(And if sleek, modern design is your thing, you can even get pillboxes to match your aesthetic. When something is beautiful, you’ll want to use it more – a win for your health and your happiness.)
If you need to take your pills first thing in the morning or last thing at night, try keeping them near your toothbrush.
4. Use a habit tracker in your planner
If your life is full-to-bursting, you’re probably already using some kind of paper or digital planner to organise your time. If so, why not use your current system to help you remember if you took your medication?
If paper planning is your jam, you probably know about the many functional habit tracker stickers available on Etsy or at local craft stores. Or, if you prefer to keep things minimal, you can quickly rule up a weekly habit tracker, bullet-journal style.
And of course, if you’ve gone digital, most planner apps offer a habit-tracking template. Whatever you use, simply check off the relevant day as soon as you take your meds. Voila - no more uncertainty!
5. Set an alarm on your phone
Your trusty phone alarm can be one of the best reminders to take your medication. Of course, you have to remember to set the alarm in the first place. But after that? It's just set and forget (the reminder - not your meds!)
Why not add one of your favourite tunes to the phone reminder to make it just that little bit more fun. Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds, anyone?
6. Consider a pill scheduling app
Don’t you just love a good app? They make everything easier – even taking your pills on time. There's a huge variety of medication reminder apps available on both Android and iOS that are packed with features like:
- discreet reminder notifications
- script refill reminders
- missing dose notifications
- habit tracking to monitor your consistency
- drug interaction warnings
- gamified point systems where you can win prizes for taking your medication
Forgetting medication is actually pretty common, especially when life gets hectic or something disrupts your regular routine.
Making it stick
Keep in mind that forgetting your medication doesn’t make you a terrible patient. It just makes you human, although you do still need to remember to take your medication somehow.
You could try to boost your memory overall, or just use the simple techniques in this article.
Once you have a deeper understanding of your medication’s ‘why’, it’s about choosing reminder methods that fit into your daily routine. You could even combine reminders: try storing your pillbox next to your toothbrush AND setting a daily phone alarm.
Whichever you choose, they’ll get you back on track in no time.
- How to boost your energy levels when you’re tired
- How to use a planner to keep your home, work and personal lives organised
- How to create habits you can actually stick to (for good this time)
Sarah Gray is both a Registered Pharmacist and Registered Nutritionist with a particular interest in health education and helping people to take small steps to big change in their health journey. Sarah is the Head of Health and Nutrition on the healthylife Advisory Panel.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board June 2021