Support with taking your medication

Tips for taking your medication as prescribed

If you find it hard to take your prescribed medication as directed, there are things to do that can make it easy for you to take them on your own:

  • keep a diary or planner, and tick off each dose as you take it
  • set your clock or mobile alarm to remind you
  • speak to your pharmacist or GP
  • put your medication in a place that is part of your daily routine - for example, next to your breakfast things, on your dining table or eating tray

 You can use an aid to help you take your medicines such as:

  • dosette boxes with alarms
  • special containers that are easier to open

You can buy these from your pharmacist and other retailers.

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Keeping your medicines list up-to-date

You should keep an up-to-date list of all your medicines. This should include prescription and over-the-counter medication and dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbals, that you use, including those you only use occasionally.

If you need to go into hospital, you should take this list with you, as well as all of your medicines.

The list will inform healthcare professionals of what you are taking currently. It will help them work out any problems you may be having with your health.

It will also help you get an 'emergency supply' if you need one. It should stop the wrong medication from being given to you in an emergency.

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Check the expiry date

You should not take medicines after their expiry date.

If you've had a box of medicine for a while, check the expiry date before using it. If you have medicines that have passed their expiry date, take them to your pharmacist, who can dispose of them safely for you.

You should never throw unused or expired medicines in the rubbish bin or flush them down the toilet.

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Side effects of taking medications

Side effects are unwanted symptoms caused by medical treatment. They are also called 'adverse effects' or 'adverse reactions'.

All medicines can cause side effects, particularly if you don't use them as advised. This includes prescription medicines, medicines you can buy over the counter, and herbal remedies and supplements.

Side effects can range from mild (such as drowsiness or nausea) to life-threatening conditions, although these are rare. The risk of getting side effects varies from person to person.

You should read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication. Some side effects could make it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery.

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When to get medical advice

If you think that you or someone you are with may be having a serious allergic reaction to a medicine, phone 999 and ask for immediate medical help.

Contact your GP or pharmacist, or phone 111 immediately if:

  • you think you have a side effect that is listed as severe in your medicine's patient information leaflet (PIL)
  • you have a side effect you think is serious

You don't need to see your GP with mild side effects, such as nausea, if you feel you can manage these on your own. Your pharmacist can tell you if the side effects need further investigation by your GP.

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Help and support networks (professional and community)

Pharmacists and district nurses

Your pharmacist or nurse can provide advice and also identify aids to help you take your prescribed medication.

You can ask your pharmacist if they provide a prescription collection and delivery service.

Your GP

Your GP can review your medicines and find other ways to help you such as:

  • referring you to the district nurses and community health visitors. They may review your needs and provide you with support
  • provide other medicines such as capsules or liquid that are easier to take

Social care support

If you have a care package that includes home visits, then the home support provider may be able to remind you if their visit coincides with your medication time. Alternatively, if you need additional support we can arrange for a carer to administer your medication.

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Tips to help you take your medicine

Do you forget to take your medicines?

Connect your medicine with some other part of your daily routine. For instance, always have it with one of your meals.

Are you worried about the side effects?

Read the patient information leaflet to find out about possible side effects of your medicine. Not everyone has the side effects listed. The effect of not taking the medicine can be worse than the side effects.

Are you having problems taking the medicine? Is it having an effect on your lifestyle?

Speak to your GP, they may be able to simplify your prescription, or prescribe a different form of the medicine. Your pharmacist can advise you about what a new medicine does.

Are you having problems with reordering your medicines on time?

Ask your GP or pharmacist if they have systems to make reordering or collection easier.

Do you feel you are on too many medicines and would rather choose which ones to take?

Ask your GP for a medication review. They may simplify your prescription, prescribe a different medicine, or even stop medicine that you no longer need.

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Page last updated:

March 7, 2023