Self help skills – Where are my pills?

Having a child with medical needs requires a certain amount of discipline. If you have been laid back, like me, it might seem an adjustment to get all the medication your child is taking under control.  A little planning and some self-help skills can make the hardest task go without a hitch.

  1. Who takes the pills

Our daughter started taking pills at a very young age, as she has gotten older it seems  we have more things to track.  When my twins were born we had different and the same medications for each one. It was a challenge to know who needed what and when. Enter nail polish and a chart on the refrigerator door. Each girl had a different color toe nail color and the cap of her pills had the same color. That helped my husband and me and any of the other care providers know who had what medication.

  1. Where do we keep themPill basket 2

I have organized a whole cabinet in my kitchen with all the family medications, first aid kit, thermometer, alcohol, gauze, etc. The kitchen is a central location and it also provides easy access for the care providers or sitters.  As we have had changes in the care plan for our daughter with diabetes, so have the supplies we keep on her shelf. And because the size of her supplies is so big, I have also designated a shelf in our linen closet to hold the rest of her supplies.

Now, I have re-organized so each person in the family has their own plaPill bag 1stic basket with their prescription medications.  I have another area in the cabinet with baskets for allergy medication, first aid, thermometer band aids, pain killers, etc.

When I was traveling for work I got used to putting my medications in smaller containers with a supply of at least a week worth of medications ready to go.

  1. How often do you take them/dose

My daughter has pills she takes in the morning, and others she takes at night. She also has another medication she has to take about 30 min before she eats anything, so how do you keep track? And what if your child has to take a medication before their meal, helping them understand the reason for this may sometimes provide challenges especially if they are hungry.  A former colleague shared with me using pill boxes. And of course I had been using them but she suggested I teach my daughter how to fill them up.    I love index cards, so I took put her AM pills on an index card and took a picture of them. I did the same thing for her PM pills and used those as guides to fill her pill boxes. We had some resistance at first but as she saw me doing the same for my pills, she wanted to be “the big girl” and be like mom.

  1. What time do we take them?

The timing of the pills like we said before can be a challenge, but it can also provide us with another teaching opportunity. If the pills have to be taken at specific times, this may give us the chance to practice our numbers as well as telling time. We can also use technology to help us out with reminders. Most of the phones and tablets we use today have alarms that can be programed to chime when we need them.

  1. Refills

There is nothing more frustrating than to find you are down to your last pill, tablet, pair of contact lenses, you get my drift and it is the weekend.   That was another skill that we had to teach our daughter, to know and understand that when we were down to a certain number of pills, we needed to call the pharmacy for refills and then pick up our medications. A trip to the pharmacy is yet another place where our children can learn and practice some self-help and functional skills. For example:

  • Waiting in line
  • Talking to adults
  • Stating your name
  • Stating your birthday
  • Signing their name
  • Paying for their medication/purchase
  • Using their manners

We can ask the teachers and therapist to practice some of these skills with our children school. We can make them part of their IEP as both educational and functional goals. These skills require memorization, verbal and occupational therapy skills as well as social skills. I do want to share that I tell the pharmacist or pharmacy tech that we are practicing new skills so they can help us. I have yet to have anyone of them tell me no. I also try to make sure there is not a long line so we do not interrupt other customers while we learn to navigate these new skills.

As you have seen these are just some of the strategies I have used to help my daughter with learning how to take care of her medications. She still needs help with other medications Pill bag 2like measuring her insulin and applying the infusion set for her pump. These require a more sophisticated skill set than she has at this time, so she will need help with this for now. Having said that, her supplies are stored in a special bag and instructions on how to use the supplies are inside the bag just in case her father or I are not available.  I have put all these tasks and strategies together for her to learn but make no mistake; they are also for my peace of mind. Should something happen to me, or there is an emergency, my friends and her primary caretaker know where these supplies are.

Having said all that, we are still taking about medication, and no matter what, we have to make sure our children are taking what they need to take when they need to take it. Like my husband says, think about the consequences of your actions. We love watching her do her thing but we are right there supervising to ensure that there are no mistakes.


Luz Adriana

My name is Luz Adriana Martinez and for the past 27 years I have been working in the field of advocacy for children with disabilities. I hold an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.

I’m married to a great guy, Tito, an Army Veteran of 22 years, who supports all the crazy things I do. Being an Army wife also prepared us to be always on the move and without daddy for long periods of time. This also gave me the opportunity work and volunteer with organizations whose mission was to assist other military families. This blog results from my desire to give back to the many families that have given me and mine so much. I have had the fortune to be able to travel the world assisting military families and now that that stage of my life is over, I want to continue to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can still provide some information and resources to families who need it.

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