On my last visit to see my mother it was clear she needed help organizing her medication. One night as she was filling her weekly pill case she became confused and frustrated, and asked for my help. As I sat with her at the table and viewed her shoebox full of pill bottles and boxes of medication (twenty-four to be exact), I was overwhelmed with the amount of medication she had to take every day. At eighty-five, she’s in frail health and it’s amazing IMG_4872she functions as well as she does.

I asked her how often she took medication and she said only in the morning and at bedtime, both on an empty stomach. Needless to say, there was some faulty thinking because as I began to systematically go through each container, I found she had been taking them incorrectly.

We all have special gifts. I have the gift of organizing (and I’m not saying I’m “organized,” I struggle with that on a daily basis). I am into projects not maintenance (but more on that in another post). I can take a conglomeration of items or tasks, and put them into a structure that is understandable and manageable. Organizing Mama’s meds was a no brainer for me, but for her it was overwhelming. The following is how I created a workable system for her.

  1. I went through EVERY drawer and cabinet in her bedroom and bathroom. We were amazed how many half used or out of date bottles I found hidden under her delicates or pushed to the back of a cabinet behind tissue and hair products. Any loose pills found in any other pill organizer were put into a baggie to be taken to the pharmacy to be disposed of…no second guessing if they were good or not…they were gone!
  2. Each bottle was closely examined for an expiration date and the instructions on when they were to be taken (oh my…she had noon pills to be taken with food that she was taking in the morning on an empty stomach. Some pills were to be taken three times a day, and she just took them once or maybe twice).
  3. If half of a pill was to be taken, all the pills in that bottle were cut in half (thank goodness, my step-father had already done that).
  4. I took a black marker and
    1. On the cap, I put the initial of when the med was to be taken: M N B (her pill case is labeled Morning, Noon, Evening, Bed.
    2. I wrote the same thing at the top of the package of breathing medications so she could easily see it.
  5. In her “medicine drawer” (the ONLY place ANY meds are to EVER go from now on) is where I put her shoebox (actually my sister went and got her a pretty container the same size as the shoebox). After she fills her pill case with the medications from this drawer, she will also be able to easily discern when she needs to reorder medications.
  6. When she receives a new prescription bottle, she is to put the “old” cap with the initials on it onto the “new” bottle. If the refill bottle cap is a different size she can just mark the new cap appropriately.

I went over the process with her and she said she understood. Now, there are times she says she understands, but she doesn’t really. I had my fingers crossed that this would work for her.

A week after I returned home, I received a call from her that any child would be thrilled to receive. She was so pleased and excited. She had just filled her pill case for the upcoming week and said, “I didn’t have a speck of problems.” She thanked me again and told me how much she appreciated my time and effort. To tell you I was beaming would be an understatement.

For me it was an easy project, but for my mother it was truly life-changing. She told me she used to be so afraid of filling her pill case because she might be doing it wrong or missing pills. And indeed she had been…but not anymore.

Is there someone you can help with an important task? For you it might be something small, but for them, it could be huge. Share your thoughts below in the comments. How can you encourage or help someone today?

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