It’s a cruel irony to have a million medications to manage… all within deep brain fog. Complex illnesses require so much to keep track of. My healthy friends will likely never understand why it takes me two hours and three failed attempts just to leave the house, and even then I likely forgot to bring something. We have to keep track of food, layered clothing, medical equipment, spoons… by the time we get to remembering to take our medications, our brains are exhausted.
I have forgotten to take my meds more times than I can count, and taken the wrong medication, or the wrong dose, a frightening number of times. The anxiety of finally getting out into the world and realizing that I didn’t bring the right pills just makes it harder to convince myself it’s safe to go out the next time. I can’t help but laugh at the time I accidentally took Imodium instead of Benadryl in the midst of a mast cell reaction, but it is also frightening.
This is the essence of being a spoonie, though — taking these challenges and, instead of succumbing to stress, rising with superhero-like organization skills! Here are some hacks I've found for keeping medications managed:
The Mighty MedPlanner
I recently started working with Mighty Well, and have been pretty thrilled by the products available. I was stoked to try out the MedPlanner. It's is impressively small and easy to carry, considering how much it can hold! It can organize all kinds of medical equipment — not just pills, but liquids, sharps, vogmask, epipens, snacks... I’ve found it especially helpful for a day out and about when I need a lot of supplies, or when traveling with multiple days worth of medication. It keeps them well organized, secure, and labeled. I especially like that it can carry medications in non-pill form, like infusions, tube feed, and oral/ocular/nebulizer liquids. It also has a detailed medical information card in the pouch, and can keep your doctors’ notes, prescriptions, and TSA disability card all in one place for flying.
Find the type of pill box that works for you
Pill boxes are great for keeping things organized. Can’t remember if you took everything today? As long as you know the day of the week, it’s got you covered. It gets trickier, though, if you have to take different pills at different times each day, or have some pills on hand for just as-needed. I also found that normal pill boxes were not big enough to fit all of my medications and supplements. I found jumbo-sized boxes available. There are also boxes with easy-open tabs, which is helpful for those of us with motor-control challenges. AM/PM boxes can also help with remembering what to take when.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to refill your medications every week. There are 14 day, and even month long, pill cases! This one could serve as AM/PM for one week or a two-week travel case. These would be great for traveling, as well.
It helps me to remember my medication if they are out in the open, rather than tucked away in a drawer. If you are someone whose mood is greatly influenced by aesthetics, or positive reminders, there are some cool pill boxes designed to be funny or beautiful and uplifting. Some have beautiful images, affirming reminders, and others are customizable to match your decor and personality!
This was a challenge for me at first. My jumbo easy-open pill box was a) huge to take with me and b) would pop open and spill in my bag. Here are some other options that I’ve found helpful:
Twist off tubes — they are a bit tougher to open if your fingers don’t grip well that day, but they won’t spill! You can use them like a daily pill box — I like this because I can make it smaller if I don’t need a full 7 days of medications. You can also fill each compartment with a different type of as-needed medication, so that you don’t need to dig in your bag for multiple pill bottles when in the middle of a flare.
Organizer cases — these, like the Mighty Well Med Planner, keep everything safe yet also organized into one place.
Single dose containers — if I’m going out for an hour, I don’t need a week’s worth of medication. Having a small container to just bring what I need can help to not feel as weighted down by gear. I like flatter compact options that fit comfortably in my pocket. Single AM/PM boxes are also helpful if I’ll be out for two doses.
Classy pill cases — I remember moments at weddings, fancy conferences, or dates, when I felt awkward pulling out my bulky pill case. There are some very classy options out there now that look more like a nice wallet, makeup case, or designer accessory than a pill box.
This is crucial — having pills already packed away so that I don’t need to think at all when I leave for a brief outing has relieved a lot of stress. I have small pill boxes stashed away in each bag, ready to go. If I end up using one, I just refill it when I get home. I also have a keychain pill case. It can’t hold all of my daily pills, and certainly not my vials of liquid meds, but it can hold emergency pills. I always have my keys with me, and it feels safe to know I always have Benadryl, Imodium, and pain killers ready to go.
It’s all well and good to have your medications organized and ready, but if you then forget to take them, it’s not much help! Timing your daily doses to daily activities can help condition your brain to remembering them. For example, timing with meals, brushing your teeth, waking up, etc. To help get the habit formed, you can leave your pills (or a visual reminder to take your medication) near where that activity takes place, like next to a toothbrush or by the foods you tend to eat for lunch. I’ve even taped reminders to the fridge door at work. If that doesn’t work, setting an alarm (repeating so that you don’t have to set it every single day) can help. Some pill boxes now come with built-in reminder systems!