Top 4 strategies for sticking with your medication

Now that you know the difference taking your medication as prescribed can make to how you feel, here are our top 4 strategies for staying on track.

Strategy No. 1: Sign up for a medication reminder program. Imagine if you had a personal assistant who could always remind you when to take your medication. While you may think that level of service is the exclusive domain of celebrities, executives and people who can afford to pay someone to run after them with a pill bottle, anyone can sign up for a compliance program. Some will send you email reminders directly to your inbox, send text messages to your cell phone, or even call you to let you know when it's time to take your medication or refill your prescription. Ask at your pharmacy to see if they offer this service.

While such programs don't guarantee you'll stick to your medication regimen (you are, after all, the only one who can do so), they can be an effective reminder. For example, in one study that used daily email reminders, an average of 20% of participants missed a dose of the birth control pill, compared to the 20% to 50% of users who typically miss a pill on occasion.

Strategy No. 2: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Your doctor or pharmacist can be a wealth of information and helpful advice when it comes to taking your medication properly. They can also recommend a medication that best fits your needs and lifestyle to increase the chance that you'll take it as prescribed. For example, depending on your needs and the medication you are on, they may recommend:

  • special packaging - Some medications are available in blister packs that keep each dose separate. If you have trouble remembering whether or not you've already taken your medication, these may make it easier to keep track.
  • ways to simplify your medication regimen - Taking pills more than once a day? You may be able to switch to a medication that's taken only once daily. Taking more than one pill to treat your high blood pressure? Some medications are available in combination pills, so you only have to take one pill instead of two.
  • some pharmacies give out special stickers that you can put on your medication bottles to keep track of each one.

Strategy No. 3: Make medication your routine. Learning to associate medications with your existing routine can help form a mental link between certain activities and remembering to take your pills. For example, if your medication can be taken with food, try taking it with the same meal every day. Eventually, when you think "breakfast," you'll automatically think "medication." If you need to take your medication before bed, taking it right after brushing your teeth every night will also form a mental connection.

Strategy No. 4: Plan ahead. Whether it's planning a medication strategy for your vacation or making sure you have enough of a supply on hand when your existing medication runs out, planning ahead is an important part of taking your medication properly. If you're going away, make sure to keep your medication in a carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost. Since the days can all seem to blend together when you're away, consider bringing a calendar with your medications noted for each day, so you can cross them off after you've taken them.

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