Keeping your medicine well-organized, labelled and stored in the correct conditions is an important home task. Every household has at least the common over-the-counter meds for emergency headaches, fever, cough and some first-aid items, while others like to be prepared and have a wider selection of meds or prescription drugs which they must take on a regular basis. Whether you have a few or many, it's essential to store them safely.
Once you’ve allocated the right place for your medicine (preferably not the bathroom cabinet due to excess humidity) you can choose which storage option best fits your needs and space. Some ideas to consider are using small baskets with labels, a storage drawer organizer unit or stackable open bins.
Small medicine cabinets are often narrow and don’t leave quite enough space for dental hygiene products, so one alternative is to set them in a basket or tray on a shelf in a nearby linen closet that can be easily retrieved each morning and evening. Or, consider keeping your toothbrush, etc., in a kitchen cabinet to brush your teeth while your morning coffee or tea is brewing. Speaking of coffee and tea, don’t forget to add a packet of baking soda to your dental hygiene program as it's both an inexpensive and easily found teeth-whitening agent to counteract the stains left by coffee or tea.
Keep your medicine safely and correctly
Even if you have a kids-free and pets-free house, it's a good idea to store your medicine in a higher-level cabinet. This prevents easy access to any family member and is also a precaution against any leaks or dampness.
There are also some basic storage standards which are essential to know and follow. Pay attention to heat, light, moisture and air which can damage your pills and vitamins. Also make sure that the cabinet/shelf is away from hot appliances. Read the storage instructions for liquid medicine as some of them require a refrigerator.
How to manage your prescription meds
If you or someone from your household is taking multiple medications, it could be hard to stay on-track and avoid any misses. Here are some useful tips and tools you can apply to organise your meds.
1. Use a pillbox
This is a perfectly inexpensive way to organise your prescription drugs. They can be found at your local pharmacy, department store or even some big supermarkets. They come in different sizes to cater to your needs. The basic ones have compartments for each day of the week, while there are also ones with multiple slots for each day, if that's what you need. Make sure to refill your organizer when it’s empty and to put the correct pills in each slot.
2. Create a checklist
An easy way to keep track of your prescribed meds is to create a written checklist, whether using a small whiteboard, notepad on the fridge or just noting it down in your diary. Write the name of each medicine, the dose you should take, the time you should take it and any other special instructions, such as taken before or after food. Make a tick box next to each medicine and mark it once you’ve taken each dose.
3. Make use of technology
New technology has improved everything from home security to robotic vacuums to fall prevention for seniors. And along with that, you’ll find an automated timer on every electronic device from your smart refrigerator to your Kindle that can be set for taking your pills on time. These can be extremely useful in reminding you to take a pill at the right time without any worry about forgetting. Similarly, you can use your phone or wristwatch to set an alarm for each daily dose or for refilling your pill organiser.
If you are more technology advanced there are some mobile apps which work in different ways. Some operate by scanning the barcode of the pill bottle/packet, while others can be paired to a ‘smart’ pill bottle and detect when you've opened it. This information can then be sent to your doctor or contact person.
4. Handling meds when moving or traveling
According to storage and space professionals, one of the biggest mistakes when moving is packing prescriptions into a moving carton. First, if your goods are traveling by van, they can get too warm under the sun. And second, you can’t be sure that you’ll find the box they’re packed in as quickly as you imagine when everything is unloaded at your new location.
Instead, it’s best to keep two weeks’ supply of medications with you as you move from one location to another. Before you move, arrange for your prescriptions to be transferred to a pharmacy near your new home. You can do that by providing a list of all your medications, dosages, and prescription numbers to the new pharmacist along with the name and contact information of your current pharmacist. The new pharmacist will take care of the transfer, and you’ll want to give them a few days to manage it.
If you’re traveling by air or train to your new home, don’t repackage your pills. Instead, leave them in their original pharmacy bottles with labels and keep them in a carry-on bag. This makes it easier for the TSA inspectors at the airport to know what you are carrying, and it increases the likelihood that you will be allowed to keep your medications rather than having them confiscated. Also, keep them as cool as you can, and adjust your medication timing to accommodate any significant change in time zones.
Giving your medications special handling and storing them near you when you’re in transit from one place to another will ensure your medications stay effective and you stay safe.
5. Declutter on monthly/quarterly basis
This is usually not a task done very often in households but it's necessary to do it every so often. Whether you have all meds in one cabinet or they are scattered all over the house, it’s a good idea to take everything out and declutter. Dispose of everything which has expired, been opened and looks damaged, prescription medicine no longer needed and anything without an expiration label.
Add "meds cabinet clearout" to your spring cleaning checklist. Refer to some of the above tips and tricks to safely store your medicine and vitamins and prevent poisoning or other accidents.