Friday, 13 January 2012

Pill Sorting Day

Pill Sorting Day
There's nothing like pill sorting day to check whether the "brain fog" is active or not.

I pull out the drawer full of drugs - and keep my chemist shopping list open on the phone beside me, so that as I notice I'm going to need more of something before next week, I add it to the list.

Then, remembering what each drug is for, how often I need to take it, what time of day I need to take it, and for some things on what day of the week I need to take it, is better than a Sudoku puzzle for making sure the brain is working!

I know it's possible to get medications pre-packaged, arranged in order already. But that only works for prescription medications (and my specialist has me taking fish oil and glucosamine as well, my GP added in magnesium for headaches) so I'd still have to sort the non-prescription meds every week.  The other thing is that my drug cocktail is often adjusted slightly when I see my GP fortnightly, and more dramatically when I see my specialist every couple of months. I don't know how flexible those pre-packaged systems are, when they're made up for a fortnight at a time. How much notice would the chemist need to make changes to the system?

The pre-packaged systems, with medications neatly sorted day by day are a great idea for some people.  They're great for elderly people whose medications don't change often, especially if they're getting forgetful and may not remember if they've taken their pills or which ones are meant to be taken when.  This has an added advantage, that the doctor and pharmacist know exactly what pills the patient is taking - so there's none of the problem of the patient not realising that now that they're taking drug x that means they were meant to stop drug y.  (Lupus patients learn very quickly to check this stuff out! My GP tells me I'm her most organised patient - I always come with my list, I know how many repeats I have left on every medication, etc.)

I've also known a teenager with a brain tumour who had the pre-packaged medications which worked well for him. This young man had a big enough challenge remembering to go to the chemist shop to pick his Websterpack up - a pill sorting day just would have been too much!

One time I think the pre-packaged system would work well for me is emergency trips to hospital. When you go to hospital, you have to take all your medications in the original containers with the pharmacist's label.  The pre-packaged systems have the pills all sorted, with a pharmacist's label covering everything in them. The last time I called an ambulance in the middle of the night, I was told to take all my medication. I looked at my drawer full of boxes and bottles. There was no option - I pulled the whole drawer out, and tipped it into two grocery bags. That's all I packed - I didn't bother with the nightie and toiletries in case I was admitted - family and friends could sort that out the next day if necessary. The Ambo who rode in the back with me, spent most of the journey to the hospital entering drug details on her computer, and reporting ahead to the hospital: "She says she has lupus - from the  medications, she's sure got something."

When I was a hospital chaplain, I was there when patients had the discussion with nurses about pills. If they'd brought their pills sorted in their own dispenser boxes (like the one I use), they weren't allowed to take them. The hospital was responsible for everything they took while there, and could only let them take medications that were properly identified. It's more efficient to take your own pills than it is to wait for the hospital to establish what your usual medication is, verify that, and dispense a whole new set. The pre-packaged system would be very useful for hospital admissions, rather than taking huge bags of pills in original boxes and bottles.

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