How to streamline your Rx mess
variety of pill bottles in soft focus with one open and pills spilling out

There are many compelling reasons that surround my move back home to live with my elderly mother—none the least of which is the near accidental overdose from the many Rx prescriptions whose labels she can no longer read.

Ask yourself these 4 questions to determine if you might need a little help in sorting out your own Rx mess.

1) Does your eyesight still allow you to easily read the Rx labels so you know the proper dosage to take?

2) Can you hear well enough over the telephone to place renewals for your Rx? Keep in mind automated phone robots—not the pharmacist—usually take and confirm your orders.

3) Do you have an organized system for dispensing meds so there is no confusion over did I already take my pill, or did I forget to put it on the tray?

4) Do you have a way to keep track of when renewals are due? Or are you surprised when you find an empty bottle and no pills left for today’s dosage?

I am sick at the prospect of taking on this role by myself. But after the brother living nearby trains me, it becomes part of my new weekly routine soon enough.

Studying his approach to counting, sorting, chopping and calling for the renewal of these pills, I feel confident that I can reorganize the grocery sack housing my mother’s entire health regiment.

3 Steps to Streamlining Your Rx Mess:


Step 1- Familiarize yourself with the pills.


  1. Know your pills by name and the reasons why each is taken.


  1. Know when and how the pill should be dispensed…with water, food, or on an empty stomach?


  1. This should be obvious, but be sure your doctor knows all of the medication you are taking in case one pill has a reaction with another. Especially important to communicate if you have more than one doctor—or are meeting for the first time a physician who is new to you.


  1. Laminate your pill chart (at end of post) and keep it in your wallet.

This will be essential information to provide at every doctor visit.


  1. Recognize the grooves and sizes that distinguish all white pills from each other. After the first time you drop your med tray (it happens!), spilling pills everywhere, you will know just how to put it all back together again.


Step 2- Streamline Rx Storage


  1. A shoebox holding a dozen prescription bottles upright works for me.


  1. Sorting the bottles in alphabetical order will make your inventorying much easier when it comes time for renewals later.


  1. On top of the bottle cap, write the renewal date due in Sharpie pen.


  1. Keep the blade for chopping pills inside this box as well.


  1. The shoebox is for storing the Rx bottles.

The med tray is for holding the day’s dosages.

Different sized med tray dispensers range from one time a day for 7-days to multiple times of the day for 7 days. The latter is what I use—and here is why I love it. There are four vertical rows, with 7 cells across in each row. The first two rows are yellow. The two rows beneath are blue. Guess what? Since I do not need to dispense meds four times a day, I re-label the slats to give me two weeks worth of pre-planned pills. Now I can load the tray with A.M. and P.M. meds knowing that the yellow is for week 1 and the blue is for week 2. Time saver for sure!


Step 3- Remember Renewals


  1. Do not put a nearly empty pill bottle away without red-flagging it.


Forgetting that tonight’s dinner pill was never renewed can be further complicated when it requires a doctor’s approval which—this being Friday—you will not get until Monday.


  1. Post renewal dates on top of standing bottles for a better alert.
  2. Laminate a version of the following Rx chart for your purse or wallet.


Pills, Powders, and Potions Chart


Laminate prescription chart to keep in handbags, and wallet for appointments.

Date Last Modified:
Patient InformationPrimary Care Information
Name of PatientName of Doctor
Patient PhoneContact Phone
Caregiver NameFront office name(s)
Caregiver PhoneStreet Address
DOBSuite #, City, Zip
Insurance1st Pharmacy choice:Phone:
Plan #2nd Pharmacy choice:Phone:


Medicine Name

(add strength mg)

Reason TakenPharmacy#1










Rx#Qty.Date Last FilledNext Fill


List in alpha orderBlood pressure?


Pharmacy to fill Rx

(check this box)

Pharmacy to fill Rx

(check this box)

Needed for refillMake a note for pills cut in halfWrite on tops of bottles for easeWrite on tops of bottles for ease


Now that you have taken stock of your Rx collection and sorted that mess from your grocery sack storage, you should be well on your way to managing your prescriptions with greater ease and care. With your new system in place, it will be a breeze if and when someone else needs to take over for you.


“What to Ask When Hiring a Caregiver?” will be the next blog posting here.

Written by Stefania Shaffer
Stefania Shaffer, a teacher, speaker, and writer, is grateful her WWII parents raised her to do the right thing. Her second book, the Memoir 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind has been called “imperative reading”. Funny and compassionate, this is the insider’s view of what to expect from your daunting role if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end. The Companion Playbook is the accompanying workbook that provides the busy caregiver with the urgent To-do list to get started today. Amazon books and reviews:

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