Senior Series

Ohio State University Extension

Senior Series

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Systems to Keep Track of Taking Medications


Adapted by: Jill Eversole Nolan, Ohio State University Extension.
Revised by: Christine A. Price, Ph.D., Extension State Specialist, Gerontology with assistance from Drs. Sereana Dresbach and Bella Mehta (July 2001).

To get the most benefit and to reduce potential risks, you must take medications as directed. Organizing your medications can be difficult, especially if you take several medications each day, at different times, and with different instructions. Two common concerns when managing medication include:

  1. Keeping track of multiple medications.
  2. Remembering whether or not a medication has been taken.

An organized system for taking medications can make medication management easier and help to guarantee you are taking your medication as directed. Keep in mind any limitations you may have (e.g., vision, memory, or mobility) when creating a medication system. It is important to develop a system that works for you.

Medication Chart

A medication chart is a written record of all the medications you take and when you take them. This should be kept in a place where it is easy to read and refer to such as the bathroom or kitchen. This is a good record to have regardless of whether you need medication reminders or not.

Medication Check-off Chart

A medication check-off chart can be used to remind you to take medications and/or remind you whether a medication has been taken. This chart can be kept near where medications are stored or can be carried with you.

Color-coded Chart

A color-coded chart can be used in combination with a medication chart or check-off chart. It can be particularly useful for people who have difficulty reading the print on prescription labels.

Medication Calendar

Calendars can be helpful in remembering to take medications. If you take medication only once a day, consider using a daily tear-off calendar. You tear off the dated page after the medication is taken. When multiple medications are taken, a large calendar with large squares may be helpful. You mark on each day which medication should be taken and when. Each time you take a medication, you place a check in the square.

Envelope Systems

An envelope system can be particularly useful for a person who has difficulty opening bottles or reading medication labels. Before using an envelope system, be sure the medication is not light sensitive. Two envelope systems are used:

Container Systems

A daily container system might be helpful if you take the same dosage of medications every day. It works best if you take the same pills every day and if pills look different. Example containers might be small glass or plastic bowls or plastic lids turned upside down.

Commercial Medication Systems

Commercial medication containers are available at your doctor's office or local pharmacy. These containers are designed for multiple and single dosage, lasting for a day or for a week. You can fill the container all at once and then take your medications at the specified times. When purchasing medication containers, be sure that individual compartments are large enough for fingers to easily retrieve and to fit multiple pills.

The Calendar (or "Blister") Card

The Calendar Card is a day-by-day dose card that makes medication taking easier, especially for people who take several medications at different times. A pharmacist prepares these cards.

Road Map to Better Health is a comprehensive health record system available through your local county Extension office. There is a section within this document that assists with medication tracking. In this section you are to record medication names, for what condition, the dosage, and the directed pattern of use. You do this for each medication you take. Tracking medication is only one part of this record system. It is important to keep track of all health conditions, medications, financial information, and other items related to health.

Road Map is a way to keep track of all this information. For further information about Road Map, contact your local county Extension office.

Any system that aids you in taking your medications as instructed is helpful. A medication system only works if you use it carefully!


Senior Series Volume 2, The Center on Rural Elderly, University of Missouri System.

A medication system only works if you use it carefully!

Click here for PDF version of this Fact Sheet.

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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

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