Treatment Adherence

In compiling the following ideas, we have made an effort to identify readily available, low-cost, and quality strategies. Although we cannot guarantee that each of the following ideas will work for you, this list can encourage you to consider various options of what could be helpful to you, and to start exploring sources of information, sources of support and ideas for coping.

a. Medication Management:

Remembering when and how often to take medications — especially if you are prescribed a number of them — can be challenging. The following strategies may be helpful in taking your medications as prescribed and following your treatment plan!

  • Identify what gets in the way of you taking your medications
    – Consider time, costs, forgetfulness, side effects, etc.
    – Discuss these concerns with your treatment provider
  • Medication Timing Strategies
    – Set a timer on your cell phone or other watch and take your meds when the timer goes off.
    – Take your medication at the same time as another regular activity, such as going to bed or eating a regular meal.
    – Ask loved ones who live with you to provide reminders.
  • Scheduling Your Medications
    – Use a calendar or log sheet to keep track of all your medications. Mark the calendar when you have taken each one.
    – Use a whiteboard or chalkboard to keep track of when you take your medications. Post the board in your bedroom or on your refrigerator, where it can be easily seen.
    – If you regularly travel or stay the night away from home, set up reminders, so you don’t forget to bring or take your medications. These reminders could range from a loved one’s reminder to a sticky note in your car, alarms, etc.
  • Handling Multiple Medications
    – Purchase a day-of-the-week pill box that contains enough spots to hold all of your medications.
    – Keep the pill box at your kitchen table or in the bathroom, where it will be easily spotted.
    – If you use a pill box, set a convenient weekly or daily time to refill the box.
    – Get a label maker or colored stickers and use them to mark which medications are to be taken in the morning, afternoon or night.
    – Many pharmacies provide labeling systems. Talk with yours about color coding systems or labeling tools that could help you keep track of which medications need to be taken in the morning, afternoon or evening.
  • Talking with Your Doctor About Medications
    – Medication routines can be complicated. If you find that yours is difficult to understand, talk with your doctor. There may be changes you can make so that remembering to take your medications isn’t such a challenge.
    – When you are in your physician’s office, don’t be afraid to ask questions and write down information about your medication dosages. It may also help to bring along a friend or loved one who can help make sense of your medication schedule.
    – Don’t stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor, even if you feel that it may not be working for you, unless you have been advised by your doctor to do so. Set up a time to chat and talk with your doctor about your concerns.
  • Cost of Medication
    – Check to see whether you are eligible for drug assistance programs at local pharmacies, with agency social worker, etc. Often Walmart and other low-cost chains have discounts on generic medications.
    – Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture your medicines may also have assistance programs. Visit their websites for contact and service information.

b. Treatment Adherence

  • Visits: Use reminders, alarms, and/or calendars to note appointment times.
  • Mindset: Explore reasons for change (lifestyle and otherwise) to help with adherence. Butterworth (2008) noted that people change when:
    – Their values support it
    – They think change will be worth it
    – They think they can
    – They think it is important
    – They are ready for it
    – They believe that they need to take charge of their health
    – They have a good plan and adequate social support