Is an automatic pill dispenser a good investment?

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | Jun 02, 2011

Remembering to take prescription medication can be a big task—big enough that you may have considered a new automatic pill dispenser, either for yourself or for your parents or other loved one. Because many medications have extremely precise instructions as far as when and how to take them, remembering the exact schedule can be grueling. It can, however, become much easier with an automatic pill dispenser.

How Does an Automatic Pill Dispenser Work?


The pill dispenser machine is set up through both electric and telephone lines, with a medication reminder recorded into a computer which then sends a signal to the machine that it is a certain time and a certain day, and specific pills need to come out. One of the most popular—and high-tech—tablet dispensers requires a family member or caregiver to fill the machine with 60 doses; when the signal is sent a Dixie cup containing the appropriate medications automatically slides down the shoot for the senior to pick up and take. For the senior who takes medication up to four times per day, this automatic pill dispenser would require filling every two weeks—less often for the senior who takes medication only twice per day.

Most of these types of pill dispenser machines speak to the senior, telling them it is time for their medication… and continues to repeat the message until the senior pushes the red button on the pill dispenser, signaling the medication was taken. If the red button is not pushed, the machine sends out a signal that the required prescriptions were not taken, the machine calls the monitoring station which, in turn, sends a signal to the designated person. The son, daughter, other family member or caretaker can call the senior and remind them to take their medications from the pill dispenser.

Another popular tablet dispenser is a little less high-tech, however, still features a protected, tamperproof, secured key system which effectively prevents over-medication of seniors. This particular pill dispenser system has 28 medication sections, making it a bit less effective for seniors who are required to take medications several times per day. It will dispense pills up to four times per day but it would then have to be filled at least once per week.  

The Pros and Cons of an Automatic Pill Dispenser


One downside to using an automatic pill dispenser is when it is used with a senior who is very hard of hearing and forgets to wear their hearing aids when they are in their home by themselves. Of course, if the senior cannot hear the pill dispenser speak, reminding them to take their medications, then it may get annoying for the person who is constantly called to say the medication was not taken. On the flip side, for the majority of seniors who leave the pill dispenser in the place in their home where they spend most of their time, they will have really good results using the automatic tablet dispenser.

Can an Automatic Pill Dispenser Work for a Person with Dementia?


Several different automatic tablet dispensers come with a locking system so the dementia patient cannot accidentally overdose on their medications. One of them comes with three different alarm tones and a blinking light, making it relatively easy for the dementia patient to be alerted to their medication times. One of these comes with an extra-large pill compartment which is helpful for the dementia patient, those who have vision problems or patients who have complex daily pill regimes.

Setting up a Separate Pill Dispenser for Vitamins


For the senior who also takes many vitamins each day in addition to their prescription meds, it might be a good idea to set up two separate tablet dispensers (labeled clearly) rather than mixing the vitamins in with the prescription medications. This will allow a caregiver who is not as familiar with the system to clearly differentiate between the prescription medications and the vitamins or over-the-counter pills. It is certainly worthwhile to try one of the new automatic tablet dispensers for the senior in your life and relieve any worries you could have about over or under medication.

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