If you’re blind, visually-impaired, or find you are losing your eyesight, you may have difficulty distinguishing the medications you need to take — and a mistake can be very dangerous. To keep this from happening, you must develop a system to organize your medications. The specific system you use doesn’t matter, as long as you can remember it and it works for you so that you can recognize and differentiate your different medications. You also need to make sure all of your medications are clearly labeled, and that you understand their dosages and the number of doses of each medication you have.
EditLabeling Your Medications
- Mark lids and bottles. The lids of prescription medications often are interchangeable. To keep them from getting mixed up, which could cause you to inadvertently take the wrong medication, put matching labels on both the bottle and the lid.
- Use simple symbols that can be read from any angle and that you’ll instantly recognize both by sight and by touch. For example, you might use a large black dot for a medication that you need to take every day, and two black dots for another medication that you have to take twice a day.
- If you can distinguish colors, you might want to use different colors for medications that you must take in the morning as opposed to those that must be taken before bedtime.
- You can also purchase a Braille label maker to make your own labels for your prescriptions.
- Use puffy markers. If you cannot make out a symbol even when using a thick marker, you may be able to distinguish the shapes of different symbols by touch. Puffy markers allow you to create your symbols with raised surfaces so you can more easily differentiate between your medications.
- Make sure you practice with the symbols, so you know you can recognize them by touch.
- You also want to take care not to make symbols that are too similar to each other, or could be easily confused without looking at them, such as an “X” and a triangle.
- Keep in mind that puffy markers aren’t incredibly durable, and may rub off over time. If you have long-term doses of a medication, you may want to clean the bottle and re-mark it occasionally to keep that from happening.
- Glue tactile objects on the bottles. Objects such as buttons, rubber bands, or cotton balls also can help you differentiate between medications. These can be helpful if you’re having trouble coming up with symbols.
- Keep in mind you’ll have to remember which object signified which medication. You may want to make an audio file with a master key that lists all of your medications and their associated objects, in case you forget.
- Make sure the objects are glued securely to the bottle using a strong glue, so they won’t come off with repeated touching.
- You also want to practice and make sure you choose objects that are sufficiently distinct from one another, and that you can immediately recognize by touch.
- Use audio prescription labels. Some pharmacies have audio prescription labels available, which can help you quickly identify your different medications. To get the audio labels to work, you have to buy your own reader.
- When you set the prescription bottle down on the reader, it will identify the medication and provide you with dosage information.
- To learn more about ScripTalk audio prescription labels, talk to your pharmacist. These systems are available at most major chain drug stores as well as some independent pharmacies.
- Inform your pharmacist of your condition. Don’t count on your medical providers to convey this information to the pharmacy. Take it upon yourself to let them know that you are blind or visually impaired. This way, the pharmacy can make accommodations for you, such as using large print or braille on labels.
- If you can’t clearly make out he instructions on the bottle, ask for a consultation with the pharmacist so they can explain how you should take the medication safely. It may be a good idea to consult with your pharmacist each time you get a new prescription to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
EditCreating Your System
- Keep bottles in a flat-bottomed basket or bin. Using a flat-bottomed basket or bin allows you to store the bottles so that all of the tops are accessible. This is important if you have an object or symbol on the top to mark type of medication.
- Make sure the sides are tall enough that you don’t have to worry about a bottle falling out when you move the basket or bin.
- Get a basket or bin in a dark color, so it will provide the most contrast against your pill bottles.
- Place alternate medications in different rooms. If you have two different medications, particularly over-the-counter medications, that are used for similar conditions or symptoms, you need to differentiate them so you know which one you’re taking.
- For example, if you have a bottle of acetaminophen and a bottle of aspirin, you might put the aspirin in the bedroom and the acetaminophen in the bathroom.
- If memory is a problem, create an audio file to remind you where each medication is located.
- Use a pill-sorter box. Rather than going through your large bottles of medication each day, traditional pill-sorter boxes that are divided by the day of the week are a simple and relatively mistake-proof way to organize your medications.
- You can get larger boxes that allow medications to be separated by morning and night as well. Larger boxes with more compartments also may be necessary to distinguish medications that are supposed to be eaten with food.
- If you can read braille, find a pill-sorter box that has the days of the week written on the lid in braille.
- It also may be helpful to leave the lids up on empty compartments after you’ve taken your medication that day, rather than closing it again. That way you can move your finger from left to right until you find the first un-opened compartment.
- Set auditory reminders. If you have the ability to set auditory reminders on your computer or on your phone, they can be used to remind you when to take your medications, what medications to take, and what your doses are.
- Auditory reminders are particularly important if you’re blind, because you won’t be reminded by a visual cue such as seeing your bottles or your weekly pill-sorter box.
- You might want to include other information in your reminders, such as where the pills are located or whether they need to be taken with food or water.
- Organize medications alphabetically. An easy system is to line your bottles up alphabetically. As long as you know the names of your medications, this can be a good way to stay organized and know exactly where each medication is kept.
- Use rubber bands as dosing trackers. If you have trouble keeping track of whether or not you took your medication, try putting rubber bands on your wrist or in your pocket or just near your medication bottles. When you take a dose, transfer the rubber band to the bottle, signifying that you took one dose. Remember to remove all the rubber bands at the end of the day so there is no confusion the next day.
- Keep a flashlight or magnifying glass nearby. If you are still able to read labels, but need a flashlight or magnifying glass to do so, have these tools along with your medications. That way they’ll be handy whenever you need them.
- If you’re keeping your medications in several different locations, get several small magnifying glasses so you can have them where you need them. For example, you might put one in a kitchen cabinet and one in your bathroom’s medicine cabinet.
- You may still want to use your own labeling system, even if you are able to read the labels with a magnifying glass – especially if your vision is deteriorating. You don’t want to wake up one morning and no longer be able to read, even with the magnifying glass.
EditManaging Your Medications
- Ask your doctor and pharmacist to read and explain dosages. Whenever you’re given a new prescription, make sure you understand how much you should take and when you should take it. You also need to understand how many doses are in each bottle, and when it needs to be refilled.
- Speak up if you have any questions about your medication, including side effects. You also need to find out what to do if you miss a dose. With some medications, if you miss a dose you can take it immediately, or double-up the next day. For others, however, you just skip it and take your regular dose the next day.
- Find out in advance what you should do if you accidentally take more than your dose of the medication. This can be very dangerous with some medications and you would need to seek medical help right away. With others, you simply don’t take your next scheduled dose.
- Make an audio log of medication information. Audio recordings can be an important tool in managing your medications if you’re blind or visually impaired. They give you the ability to quickly access information about each drug, including dosage information and when the prescription needs to be renewed.
- If you’re seeing several specialists or have prescriptions from multiple doctors, include the doctor’s contact information with each medication log.
- You also should include information about what to do if you miss a dose, or if you accidentally take an extra dose.
- Think about how the pills feel, and describe them in your audio log. This can be helpful if you spill a bottle or get caps mixed up.
- Switch to an insulin pen. If you are diabetic and are blind or visually impaired, switching to a pre-filled insulin pen makes it easier to calculate the dosage you need. You can administer your doses yourself without having to worry about overdose.
- Note that these pens are not designed specifically for the blind or visually impaired, so you will need training and careful instruction on how to use them properly. Practice with your doctor or diabetes educator to ensure you can inject yourself with confidence.
- Pre-filled pens can be dialed to the specific amount of insulin you need to take. Since all pre-filled pens contain the same amount of insulin (300 units), you can easily calculate how long that pen will last you.
- Often a pre-filled pen will not dial an amount larger than what is left in the pen, although some will. Ask your doctor if yours does this, because if it does you’ll have to keep close tabs on the insulin remaining.
- Before you use the insulin pen, tap it on the back of your hand to release any air bubbles and make sure the pen is working properly. It will release a small drop of insulin on the back of your hand as well. You should be able to feel it, or you can blow on your hand to detect the distinct odor of insulin.
- The insulin pen is not your only option if you are blind or visually impaired and diabetic. You can use an Inject-Aid or Safe Shot Syringe Holder to hold an insulin bottle and syringe straight for easy insertion (these must be calibrated by a sighted person so you get the proper dose of insulin). You can also use Count-a-Dose, which uses a click-wheel so you can hear and feel a click for each unit of insulin, ensuring you get the proper dose.
- Set reminders for expiration dates. Especially if you have a long-term medication that’s only supposed to be taken on an as-needed basis, you may run the risk of the drug expiring before you’ve taken all of it.
- Ask your pharmacist to tell you the expiration date for the medication when you pick it up, and you can set a reminder on your phone.
- Some pharmacies also may have reminder programs that will call you when a medication is due to expire or about to run out.
- If you think you may have taken the wrong medication or an incorrect dose, call your doctor immediately. They can advise you on what to do next.