Remembering Medications With Chronic Kidney Disease

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2023 | Last updated: June 2023

Remembering to take all of your medicines can be a challenge for anyone trying to balance chronic kidney disease (CKD) and a busy life. At later stages, fatigue and brain fog may add extra challenges. However, taking your drugs as prescribed can be one of the best ways to manage symptoms and slow progression of kidney disease.1

Studies show that a large number of people with kidney disease miss drug doses, either on purpose or by accident. If you are having trouble remembering when or how to take your kidney drugs, here are a few simple tips to make it easier.

1. Know your medicines

Keep a list of all the drugs you take, both prescription and over-the-counter, and your doses. The more you know about each drug you take, the more likely you are to understand why you need to take it. This understanding can help motivate you to take your medicines and recognize any side effects that may occur.1

2. Create a routine

Take your medicines at the same time every day. Many people tie taking their meds to a daily task. Common ideas include when you eat breakfast, brush your teeth, walk the dog, or get ready for bed.2

Another routine that helps some people is to turn the bottle upside down after you take your pills. Then, at the end of the day, turn the bottles right side up and start fresh the next day.

3. Remind yourself

Make it easier to remember to take your drugs by putting them in a basket on the breakfast table or next to your toothbrush. Post notes to yourself around the house, for instance by the front door, so you do not leave for school or work without taking your pills. If any of your medicines must stay cool, post a note on the refrigerator door. You also can send yourself a reminder text message.2

If you have to take multiple doses of the same medicine throughout the day, it may help to list each dose on a dry-erase board. Then, erase the reminder after you take each dose.2

4. Use a pillbox

Pillboxes come in many sizes. They can help keep you organized, especially if you are taking multiple medicines. You can choose from inexpensive plastic boxes marked with each day of the week to electronic boxes that are programmed to automatically open at specific days and times. More expensive electronic pillboxes can hold up to 1 month’s worth of doses.2

5. Keep a calendar

Set up a calendar to remind yourself when refills are due. It is important to notify your doctor before you run out so they can call in a refill. Buying your medicines in a 3-month supply through mail order is one way to reduce the number of trips you need to make to a pharmacy for refills.2

If you have multiple prescriptions that become due at different times throughout the month, talk to your pharmacist about ways to simplify your refill schedule.2

6. Make technology your friend

You can set up daily emails or alerts to remind yourself to take medicines at a certain time. These reminders can be especially helpful if you have a drug you only take once or twice a week.2

If you have a smartphone, you can download 1 of many apps that will alert you to take your medicine. These apps often include a handy list of all the medicines and supplements you are taking so you do not have to rely on memory alone.2

7. Try reminder tops

Some pharmacies provide reminder tops. These are bottle caps that come with a reminder alarm.2

8. Simplify your routine

As kidney disease gets worse, treatment plans become more complicated. This often means that the number of medicines you take grows. People with CKD may take up to 20 or more pills a day.1,2

If you are having trouble remembering to take your medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to suggest changes to your pill regimen.1,2

9. Ask family and friends for help

Many people need help remembering to take their medicines. You might ask a family member to call or text you each morning or night with a reminder. You and a friend can also make an agreement to call or text each other at a certain time to make sure you each took all of your medicines.1

10. Avoid avoidance

Sometimes people do not forget to take their medicines as much as avoid taking them. If you are avoiding a certain drug because of its side effects or cost, talk with your doctor to see if an alternative is available.

If you are avoiding taking a drug because you are not sure you need it, talk with your doctor or nurse. There are many drugs that do not seem to make a difference if you skip a dose sometimes. However, there may be serious, long-term consequences to skipping doses.1

Remember, everyone is different. A tip that works for one person may not work for you. Try different combinations of pill reminders until you find what is most helpful to you.

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