Many of my Social Security Disability clients have to keep track of a long, complicated list of medications every day.  If that sounds like you, here are eight tips to help you organize your medications so you know you are taking the right thing at the right time.

1.  Don’t store medicines in the bathroom.

Not only are the constant humidity and temperature fluctuations bad for medicine, but there are so many bottles and potions that already belong in the bathroom, and a limited amount of cabinet space.  Medicine bottles can easily shoved to the back of a cabinet or knocked onto the floor in the search for other things.  The kitchen is a better place to store medicines if you can dedicate a small cabinet or shelf that is not too close to the stove.

2. Use colors to label your medicines by the time of day that you need to take them.

Use differently-colored markers or highlighters to mark the label according to the time your medicine should be taken.  A sample system suggested by MedlinePlus is:

  • Green mark for medicines that you take at breakfast.
  • Red mark for medicines that you take at lunch.
  • Blue mark for medicines that you take at dinner.
  • Orange mark for medicines that you take at bedtime.

If you need to take a medicine more than once a day, simply make more than one colored mark on the label.  It is a good idea to make a simple chart that defines the colors and tape it to the inside of the door of your medicine cabinet.  That way, you won’t forget your system.

3. Tape a checklist to the inside of your cabinet.

Similar to the way that retail stores keep track of when bathrooms are cleaned, you can create a checklist or sign-off sheet to keep track of whether or not you’ve taken your medicine at a certain time of day.  Hang or clip a pen inside the door and check off each time you take a pill so that you have documented proof in case you can’t remember doing it later.

4. Sort your medicine by function with a storage drawer organizer unit or a set of small baskets.

A plastic drawer organizer or set of small plastic baskets are small purchases that can be a big help.  By grouping similar types of medications in labeled containers, you can find what you need easily next time you need a certain medication.  Examples of categories you could use when sorting are:

  • Pain-killers
  • Cold & flu medicine
  • Stomach medicine
  • Sleeping aids
  • Vitamins and supplements

5.  Use pill sorters to make sure you don’t take too many at one time.

If you have too many medicines to take all at once during any one time of the day, pill sorters are useful for grouping pills into smaller, more manageable doses.

6.  Make sure that controlled substances are secured to prevent theft.

Many of my clients have been robbed and their opiate-based medications or benzo-based medications have been stolen.  Theft of prescription drugs is not an unusual occurrence.  And if you think you are safe because your neighborhood is a low-crime area, think again – according to the National Neighborhood Watch, most incidents of prescription and OTC medication theft are committed by someone the victim knows well.

Opioid painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin are the most widely abused class of controlled prescription medications. Others include Valium, Xanax, Ritalin, and Adderall.  If you have medications like these in your cabinet, consider moving them to a locked drawer.

7.  Keep medications out of the reach of small children.

Even if you only watch your grandchildren on occasion, it is important to make sure that all medicines are placed out of the reach of little hands.  If you can’t keep your medicines up high, don’t forget to invest in child-proofing the cabinet or container(s) they are in.

8.  Read precautions carefully!

Make sure you know what ingredients all of your medicines contain, as well as understand any risks or warnings the label or prescription print-out describes.  When in doubt, or when you are considering taking an additional supplement or herbal remedy, consult your doctor to be sure that you will not experience any adverse drug interactions.

Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative.