Managing Medications Part 3: Med Box Planner


Setting up a medication box planner is the easiest way to manage your routine medications. When I was working as a nurse, we encouraged patients with polypharmacy (taking more than 5 medications daily) to set up a med box for safety purposes as it is easy to forget a dose or double dose. When you use a medication box planner, you can just go look at the planner and know from the empty or full slot if you have taken your medication. As a patient, I find this very helpful. Days seems to run together and it is hard for me to remember if I took my meds in the morning or was that yesterday morning? With the med box planner there is no guessing. Easy-peasy!

Medication boxes are designed to hold your medications for a week at a time and have little bins labeled with the day of the week. Theyare made of plastic in most cases and are fairly inexpensive costing $1-$7. Some med box planners hold meds for routine daily dosing, twice daily dosing, , and four times a day dosing (also used for three times daily dosing).


In addition to helping you manage your daily dosing of medications these planners will help you manage your refills with your pharmacy. How so? When you sit down weekly to fill your planner, you will know immediately when you will run out of medication because you won’t have a sufficient amount to finish the bins for the week or so few in the bottle you know you can’t fill the planner for the upcoming week.

When I sit down to fill my medication box planner, I try to limit distractions. You want to be alert and make sure you don’t leave a drug out of a slot or that you don’t accidently fill a slot with double the medication. I turn the TV off and I don’t answer the phone while refilling the planner as I have been distracted before and lost where I was in my process of filling the planner.  I take 23 pills a day routinely. My med box planner is FULL and many of my medications look alike so I have to pay close attention when filling my med planner. I keep all my routine medication bottles in a decorative box. I take one bottle from the box at a time, fill the planner, then I set that bottle beside the decorative box on the table. If I know I need a refill, I set the bottle in a different location to the far right on the table so I don’t forget I need to take care of that one. By using this method, I don’t get confused as to what is in my med planner and what is not. I know the medications in the decorative box have not been loaded in the planner, that the bottles on the table along side the box have been loaded in the planner and those set to the far right need refills. Once the planner is loaded, I return all the bottles except the ones requiring refills to the decorative box and put it away.

While filling the planner, you may run out of medication. This can be confusing if you run out of several prescriptions. For example, I may run out of my diabetes medication on a Thursday and my antidepressant on a Friday and a cardio med on a Monday. How am I to remember where to put the meds when I get my refill from the pharmacy? I came up with a simple reminder when I was filling med box planners as a Home Health nurse. I simply write the name of the drug on a slip of paper and place that slip in the first empty slot for that day. Since I always fill my box on Sunday, I know that I am out of my diabetes med until Saturday as the box is labeled Sun – Sat from left to right. I always encouraged patients to load their boxes on Sunday for this simplicity of filling. Should you choose a different day, you can put a slip of paper labeled with the drug name in each slot that is missing your drug. See photo below for an example of how I manage empty slots in my med box planner.


Once my med box planner is loaded, I make sure that the lid snaps tightly on each bin. I have had bins pop open when shaking out a dose which made for a difficult sorting! I place the bottle needing a refill on my desk so I will be reminded to call the pharmacy Monday morning to order my refills. When I get the refills, I add any remainder of meds in the old bottle to the new bottles, then I strike out my name on old bottles and discard them in the trash. The new refilled bottles go in the decorative box.

The method described above is the easiest, safest way I have learned to manage 23 pills a day. Those are just the routine meds. What about the as needed medications like pain pills, muscle relaxers, topical creams? I keep these medications in one location. I live alone so there is no danger is children getting in my as needed medications. If you live with others, you may wish to consider a locked medication box to store these meds for safety of your children and to prevent theft.  Once I use an as needed medication, I place a small post-it note on it with the date and time I used it. This may seem tedious, but when you take a variety of as needed medications and you can’t think because of pain levels, it is easy to forget. You might say to yourself, “Did I take the muscle relaxer last or the pain medication?” and accidentially overdose. According to the CDC, “Opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999”.

The key to responsible prescription medication dosing is safety: safe dosing for yourself, safety against accidental dosing of others and protection against theft. According to Time magazine 70,000 kids overdose each year and are rushed to emergency rooms because they took medications that were within reach! CBS news reports that the top 5 drugs that teens steal are: narcotics, stimulants, sedatives/tranquilizers, sleep aids, and cough meds with DMX. When working Home Health, I cannot tell you how shocked I was that family members would steal medications from the home bound adult. Doctors are very reluctant and will often refuse to refill a prescription that was “stolen” as this is a frequent excuse from patients who are abusing their prescription medications. It is best when you live with others or have a lot of traffic in your home to place your medications under lock and key.

I hope you are enjoying this series on Medications. in the coming weeks I will be discussing Injections and Infusions related to RA. If this is your introduction to the series, there are two prior blog entries about Refills and Cost/Assistance.


About Mischelle Jackson

I am a middle aged, single lady living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and other chronic illness which have led me into early retirement from a nursing career. I have a fur-baby, Jaycee, a Chihuahua, who makes me laugh and helps me get out of myself when I'm having a bad day. I crochet for relaxation when the RA allows. My faith sustains me.

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