How to Keep Track of Multiple Medications

Gone are the days when the only pill you popped was a multivitamin. Now, it seems your medicine cabinet is bursting with remedies for a variety of ailments, each with its own directions for use.

But how do you keep track of different medications when one pill is taken once a day on an empty stomach and another is taken twice a day with food? What if they all look the same? Will you remember what you took and what you didn't?

If you take several different prescriptions, it's essential that you create a medication chart. This chart holds the basic information about each of your medications.

  1. Grab a fresh piece of paper and divide it into five equal vertical columns.
  2. Label the top of each column with the following information:
    • the name and purpose of the medication
    • its color and shape
    • the directions for use
    • the times it should be taken
    • the pharmacy where you get it
  3. Allot one horizontal row for each medication you take, including vitamins and over-the-counter remedies.

If you sometimes forget to take your medication, or forget whether you've taken it, consider a medication check-off chart.

  1. On one side of a page, list all the medications you take in a week, including the times you take them.
  2. On the other, leave space for check marks.
  3. Every time you take your medication at a particular time, check it off on the chart.
  4. You can photocopy the blank chart and make fresh copies for each new week.
  5. Hang the check-off chart next to your primary medication chart in a place that you're sure to see, such as the refrigerator door or bathroom mirror.

Sometimes the writing on prescription labels can be difficult to see. In this case, you can try a color-coded system.

  1. On a separate piece of paper, write down your different medications and place a separate colored label next to each on the paper. For instance, your heart medication might have a red label, while your blood pressure medication gets a blue one.
  2. Then, every time you get a new prescription bottle, stick the correct colored label on the bottle (not the cap). This will prevent potentially dangerous drug mix-ups.

There are various other ways to keep track of your medications if none of the above is right for you. Retailers sell plastic container systems with different compartments for different pills. You can also try an envelope system, with each day's dosages put into labeled envelopes for easy grab-and-go use.

And pharmacies can prepare for you prepackaged cards, or "blister cards," that have little sealed pockets containing all the medications you need to take at a certain time or certain day. These cards are numbered for easy use.


Ohio State University Extension Senior Series