Whether on one medication or many, people with and without Down Syndrome have difficulty taking medication as prescribed. The following tips can help simplify medication management and prevent missed or repeated doses.
Build medications into your routine.
Take medications at certain points in your routine (e.g., at breakfast or after brushing teeth) rather than at certain times (e.g., 8:00am).
Include taking medications in a visual schedule to make it part of your loved one's daily routine. More information on schedules is provided in our Visual Supports article.
Leave reminder notes near where your loved one will be when it is time for their medication. For example, you could put a Post-It note on the bathroom mirror or a dry erase board by the bowls your loved one uses for breakfast).
Use the Alarms or Reminders app on your smartphone to set alerts for medication times.
Use medication reminder and tracking apps. We provide specific recommendations in the apps section below. You can also set reminders for medication refills.
Develop a system for tracking when medications are taken.
Use a pill organizer.
If your loved one takes several medications, a pill organizer can simplify their medication routine. Even if they do not take many medications, a pill organizer can make it easy to tell whether they have already taken for the day.
When choosing a pill organizer, consider how many times per day your loved one needs to take medications. As an alternative to using smartphone reminders or apps, you can find pill organizers with alarms.
If you loved one takes medications multiple times per day, consider using a pill organizer with visuals to represent morning, afternoon, and evening on the compartments. You can also make your own visuals specific to your loved one's routine (e.g., morning coffee or brushing teeth) and attach them to the compartments. This can make it easier for your loved one to associate taking medications with certain steps in their routine.
Examples of types of pill organizers
*Images from Amazon
Weekly pill organizer, 1x per day
Weekly pill organizer, 2x per day
Weekly pill organizer, 3x per day
Weekly pill organizer, 4x per day
Pill organizer with alarm
Pill organizer with alarm
Use strategies to simplify filling pill organizers.
- If your loved one has several medications to keep track of, using a visual diagram such as the PillMap can make filling pill organizers easier.
When filling your pill organizer, begin with all the pill bottles on one side of the organizer. As you finish organizing each medication, move it to the other side of the organizer or put it away to prevent duplicating or missing a medication.
Use matching, color-coded stickers on each medication bottle and the corresponding organizer compartments. Instead of reading the instructions for each pill bottle, your loved one can simply fill the organizer by matching. You can also place the appropriate color sticker next to each medication on your medication list or pill map to use as a key.
Instead of colored stickers, you can also use matching visuals on the bottles and compartments representing the time of day the medications need to be taken (e.g., breakfast, bedtime, etc.) to help your loved one fill the organizer.
Make use of medication management technology and services.
Consider using an automatic medication dispenser or management service.
Try medication management apps.
- Cost: Free for basic version. Premium version available for monthly fee.
- Provides medication reminders on your smartphone.
- App can sync across devices for caregiver/family member access and notifications about medication refills.
- Apple App Store | Google Play Store
- Cost: Free. Offers in-app purchases.
- Provides medication use tracker and refill reminders. Also provides information about drug and supplement interactions.
- Also has a symptom tracker feature and the option to share reports directly with medical providers.
- Apple App Store | Google Play
- Round Health
- Cost: Free. Only available in the Apple App Store.
- A simple option for medication reminders and tracking.
- Can sync across multiple devices for caregiver/family member access.
Communicate with your healthcare team.
Be open with your pharmacist and doctor about any difficulties with taking medications as prescribed. It is important for your healthcare team to be aware if any medications are not being taken as prescribed. They can help you problem-solve.
Your doctor may be able to recommend extended release or once-daily dosing if taking a medication multiple times per day is proving difficult.
If obtaining refills is a challenge, your doctor may be able to prescribe 90-day supplies of certain medications or your pharmacy may be able to set up medication delivery to your home.
If your loved one has low vision, your pharmacy can print large-print labels on medication bottles.
Many medication bottles already come with visuals showing the time of day to take the medication. If yours do not, ask your pharmacist if these can be added.
An occupational therapist can also help with strategies for medication management specific to the challenges your loved one is facing.
* We provided links to one option of a retailer from which to purchase products suggested in this resource. Some of them are available at other retailers. Additionally, we are sharing information about specific products for educational purposes only. The Adult Down Syndrome Center does not receive financial support or compensation for sharing information about the products.