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Elderly people taking multiple pills

Useful insight

My mother-in-law is fiercely independent and lived at home alone taking multiple pills.  She would have benefitted from having a foolproof device to assist her taking all her pills at the correct time.  Her poor memory meant that she forgot whether she’d taken her pills which meant that she repeatedly overdosed her medication. 

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Chris Blevins Oct 24, 2020

This is a huge problem, I’ve have / had two elderly relatives where medicines have been missed and also where medicines have been “doubled dosed” that have lead to problems. Both being fiercely independent wouldn’t allow a family member to regulate the medical regime so some form of simple programmable reminder deviceThat a family member could set up to assist and allow the person to still in control would be brilliant.

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Chiara Scarampi Oct 25, 2020

It is an important issue indeed. There exist aids that can assist with the medical regimen, ranging from pill bottles outfitted with digital timers to apps that store medication information which can be shared with other people. One of the main related problems is how to motivate individuals to use such technologies. Research from our lab has shown that older adults are often overconfident in their memory and in their ability to remember to fulfil future intentions without relying on external aids. This may lead them to avoid using external aids even though they can be highly effective for them.

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Miroslava Katsur Oct 25, 2020

@Heather Logie, I'm so sorry to hear about the problems your mother-in-law faced. I think it is an important topic to discuss it here! I know that my grandmother forgets pills sometimes, but my grandgrandmother had her pill dispenser and would record down when she took drugs (she was an accountant, so maybe it's a habit to record things carefully?). There's various types of pill dispensers which can be prepared by a pharmacist.
However, what if a person forgets to check their list or drug dispenser? I checked now that there are apps which can remind people about their medication. Alternatively, there is a personal medication manager device called Hero (there's others as well), which dispense and manage all medication - it reminds you of taking up to 10 pills by beeping and on your app as well. It costs $30 per month though...

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Miroslava Katsur Oct 26, 2020

Status label added: Useful insight

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Adrian Girling Oct 26, 2020

If you search for "automatic pill dispenser" there are quite a few on the market based on a rotating lid on a circular box where a gap in the lid aligns with the pills at the right time. It would be nice to link this to WiFi so the system confirms that the dose has been accessed and at what time. My only criticism is that the devices are quite expensive - if it was part NHS policy to issue them to elderly patients at home, the cost could be driven down and ensuring medicines are taken in a timely would save lives and reduce the overall cost of care.

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Emily Crawford Nov 10, 2020

Is there anything on the market atm that links a pill dispenser to some sort of app that can be notified when the dose is accessed, what has been taken, etc? This would help carers and family know that the person has taken the correct medication (especially if they are still living independently)...

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Adrian Girling Nov 10, 2020

That's a great question - I don't know but I'll take a look. Given the very low bandwidth of the information (just a yes sent when the pills are accessed, or a no after a given time if they've not been accessed) I'd favour a text message which doesn't rely on an internet connection, smart phone etc. If nothing exists I will try to find time to make something which works

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Nattawan Utoomprurkporn Oct 29, 2020

I have seen this service called "pillpack". They pack the multiple medications in a separate pack with date and time stamp to help seniors not to double dose. The service is very popular in the US but limited availability in the UK though.

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