Medication Compliance Is a Hard Pill to Swallow

April 15, 2011 Angela McClanahan

Medication compliance is difficult -- especially for some mental illnesses with the symptom of anosognosia or attention problems. Here are some tips to help.

A friend of mine recently went to a new psychiatrist, who took her off the one (ineffective) medication she was taking and prescribed several new ones. I asked her the other day how things were going.

“I can already see what the problem is going to be with this stuff,” she said. “Remembering to actually take them.”

I can relate. Every weekend, I get out Bob’s 7-day pill minder we keep at home. I also get out the pill minder he takes to school. (They would prefer I send them marked bottles, but I don’t trust them to administer the correct pills at the correct times. Color me a control freak.) I break out the four bottles of pills and start dividing them up . . . one in the morning . . . one at school . . . another at school later . . . two at bedtime. When I’ve finished loading the pill boxes, I put the bottles away, hand off the school box to my husband for delivery to the nurse, and set the home box on the bathroom counter.

Every morning, and every evening before he goes to bed, Bob is to take whatever is in the assigned pill slot. Almost every morning, and every evening before he goes to bed, he forgets.

Keeping Up With Medication Compliance Becomes a Family Problem

This drove my husband insane. I leave for work before the boys are even out of bed, so it’s been up to him to prepare them for school and make sure they get there. He couldn’t understand why Bob couldn’t remember this one, simple task, performed in the same place at the same time every day.

So I clued him in.

pill1Most of us who take any psychotropic medication do so because, in part, of something that (among other things like anosognosia) impedes our ability to focus. If we don’t take our pills, we can’t focus. If we can’t focus, we don’t take our pills. Do you see where this is going?

I forget to take my own pills. I have a pill box I fill (unless I forget) on the weekend and keep in my bag. Mine is not as clearly marked as Bob’s and I have found myself wondering if I took them already. I have also missed a day because one thing led to another and I never got around to saying, “Hey, take your pills.” I realize this is mostly my fault for not establishing a routine like Bob’s—but even if I had one, it would be hard for me to remember to follow it.

Medication Compliance Tips

There are ways to make medication compliance easier.

  • A clearly labeled and appropriately-sized pill box is one thing.
  • Setting reminders in an electronic calendar or cell phone is also effective.
  • Some people keep a notebook with their medications and jot down each dose taken.

Of course, children should always be supervised with medication. Lately, I’ve been getting Bob up and making sure he takes his medication before I leave. Maybe I should have my husband do the same for me…

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, April 15). Medication Compliance Is a Hard Pill to Swallow, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 16 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

April, 17 2011 at 12:37 pm

I always forget to take my medicine. I never really thought about why until reading your post. It makes sense that the fog of depression makes it harder to remember. After all, I forget less often when I'm not feeling depressed.

April, 16 2011 at 4:56 am

I get the "color me a control freak" attitude because I have kids on meds. They are grown and doing their own now, but I remember the days when my son was not allowed to take his inhaler to the playground. What is the inhaler for? Exercise induced asthma. Yeah, I get it.
I do have to add a bit of caution to your routine. I'm not sure if it is the same in all states, but in my state, if you carry medication that is NOT in it's own prescription bottle, if you are stopped, the police can arrest you for posession. Even if the medications are not "controlled substances", you may have no proof of that at the time. Besides, if your child takes any of the ADD meds like Adderall (dextroamphetamine), or antianxiety meds (benzodiazepines), only two of these pills amounts to trafficking. If arrested, the prescriptions can all be proven, but I don't think it's worth the stress that ensues. Maybe tape a copy of each prescription (copy the bottle itself so it shows doses and number of times per day) to the med box.
Hope this helps. It only takes once to learn the hard way, and it only happens to me when I think it won't.

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