medication management calendar

My mother was getting forgetful and I was worried sick about her. On the phone, my mother’s conversation was confused and fragmented. Finally, I flew to Florida to assess her physical and mental health. One morning my mother said she wasn’t feeling well. She walked into the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, grabbed the first bottle she saw, and took a pill. “What did you just take?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

When I looked at the label, I found that the medication had been prescribed for bladder infection. One problem—my mother didn’t have a bladder infection. This error was the beginning of her decline. Shortly after my visit, I moved my mother to my hometown to be closer to family, and monitor her meds. I was her family caregiver for nine years, and witnessed her slow, steady, relentless decline.

Sandra Ray writes about the medication issue in her article, “Keeping Track of Medications Safely,” posted on the Today’s Caregiver Magazine website. According to Ray, the management of medications includes awareness of drug interactions, throwing away outdated meds, never borrowing or lending medicine, not shopping for meds, taking all medications as prescribed, and constant checking. “Drug interactions are especially a concern for seniors,” she adds.

I was my mother’s family caregiver for nine years. Today, I’m my disabled husband’s primary caregiver. He takes so many prescription meds I can hardly keep track of them. I sat down at the computer, studied the medications list, and created a checklist for daily use. Each morning I enter the date, and print out the checklist. Before I give him any pills I check the label to make sure it’s the right medication. I put a checkmark by each medication as he takes it.

This simple system works well for me, and may work for you. This customized checklist makes tracking meds easier. What should be on your list?    

  • The current date
  • Name of the medication
  • Generic name of the medication (if one exists)
  • Dosage (number of milligrams, one pill, one teaspoon, etc.)
  • Reason for medication (high blood pressure, skin rash, cough, etc.)
  • Stop date if there is one

Free and fee medication checklists are available online. Some lists ask you to describe the pill—pink, white, yellow, etc. This sounds like a good idea, but it can lead to trouble because many medications are the same color. If you choose to describe the medication, I would add a qualifier, such as oval white pill, white capsule, or large, round white capsule.

For quick access, I write the name of the medication on the top of the bottle with permanent marker. Of course, I make sure the right top gets on the right bottle.

Safe medication management is an issue that pertains to everyone, not just care receivers. We live in Rochester, MN, home of Mayo Clinic, and go to Community Medicine for our health care. My husband’s last appointment was preceded by a consultation with a pharmacist, something we hadn’t requested. “Why are we meeting with a pharmacist?” I asked. According to the nurse, Mayo devised this plan because so many patients were taking medications incorrectly—skipping doses, taking extra pills, or even stopping pills.

A loved one’s health hinges on safe, ongoing medication management, and that’s part of your job. Create or download a medications checklist today!

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit

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  1. Just to say guys care for carers anyone wellcome still ongoing glasgow east

  2. The 8 R’s…as taught in the Medication Administration course South Aus

  3. I fill med envelopes with ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, and ‘evening’ dosages. Each are labeled with the time to be given, and the meds that go in there. I sit at the kitchen table, fill the envelopes, and put each days packet together with a paper clip. (I fill as many packets as possible). Each morning at breakfast I take the AM bag and give my son his meds – putting the other 2 packets on the outside of the container where I keep all the packets, ready to administer at lunch and dinner.

  4. Pill box works with days of the week on it, plus morning, afternoon, and evening on it

  5. I place pill on a spoon and then place in my mom’s mouth. I then ask her to drink water and swallow the pill. I make sure she has swallowed pill before moving onto the next pill. The spoon method prevents either one of us from accidentally dropping a med(s). Since I’ve started doing this, I’m no longer finding pills in the recliner, on the door etc. If pills are small I can place several meds on a spoon. I tell my mom the name of each med and what they’re for.

  6. I did a Word doc list of all medications with dose and frequency – one for Mom and one for Dad. It was revised as needed with each Dr visit/call. That made it a whole lot easier for any doctor appointment or hospitalization. Less to remember

    • I do the same, but with an Excel spreadsheet (easier to sort – by doctor, name, date started, etc.). It’s set to print the date at the bottom of the page, so we can tell if it’s current. Doctor’s offices love when I tell them that the printout is theirs to keep.

    • Great idea – that would make it easier and I like the current date in it.

  7. Pharmacies can bubble pack your rx, write the date & your initials under the number corresponding to the date or in numerical order.
    If you’re not computer savey or have the option of a jump drive for medical information.

    Use a zipper closing binder.
    File with plastic tab pages the contents:

    personal information*


    surgeries with dates & doctors*

    Yearly appt. dated most recent flu shot, tetanus, eye, hearing, physical exam, annual heart, annual urology, med review*

    doctor address info & speciality + fax number*

    release of information*

    ER consent form*

    copies of legal documents*

    paper for taking appt. notes.*

    Med/supplement list
    med/supplement prescriber list
    med/supplement use list- sometimes these can be combined.*

    tracking forms-vitals, bm, intake/outtake, INR results, sleep/awake, behaviors*

    A nurse can give you a copy of what was typed during the appt. & you can insist they type what you want in if something isn’t addressed.
    You can give a nurse any tracking sheet, med/supplements list or symptom or behavior discription to copy for the medical appt.*

    You can keep some information monthly or every 3 months or yearly depending on what you need.

  8. Dispenser easy set up and talks reminders when empty also

  9. I put in baggies with designated time to be taken (ex: morning, dinner, bed). Also, a typed copy is in the fridge in case of emergency and a small modified/laminated card of the med list is in my wallet for emergencies.

  10. What I’ve found frightening is how hospitals and SNFs frequently mess up medications. Each hospitalization and SNF stay, I’ve given the list of medications and dosages to the ER, and then again to the nurse on every shift, and then again to admission at the SNF and the charge nurses at the SNFs… Every time I’ve checked the meds with a nurse, they’ve had the wrong meds or dosages.

    • I always check before letting my sons take meds in the hospital.

    • My parents both take medications four times a day. When they moved to the SNF, I couldn’t be there every time they took their meds. I have another parent at home to take care of.

  11. Man, this takes me back. I had to take all Dad’s meds with me, and bring them back every day, because he’d threaten to take all of them to “get it over with”. We need a better system.

  12. I keep a list exactly like that in a Google Drive folder where my wife and I can access at any time. I also keep notes in the list describing every time the dosage has changed or a medication has been discontinued. I also include drug allergies on that list.

    I fill a pill pack up each week. There is a morning, midday and evening slot with all the pills.

    The best place to get the description of the pills is on the Rx bottle. It will say “a small tan oval pill with J298 on the front and 2B on the back”.

    I write the name of the medication in the lid. When you have a large number of pills that simplifies filling a day’s worth.

  13. It was watching my mother 40 years ago get so upset at my father wondering if he had taken his “heart med” that she ended up taking it herself!! that made me set up small envelopes for them for the week. Now we just use the tray of weekly pill organizers… they come in different colors and breakdowns. There is also a pharmacy called Pillpack that sends you your pills for each swallow time in a sealed packet.

  14. I enjoy having our machine from Guardian Medical. It hooked to their monitor and it tells my husband that’s its time to get it. Such a relief when I’m on errands.


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