It’s not easy keeping track of multiple medications. It’s all too easy to miss a dose, take a late dose, or even get confused and take an extra dose.
The problem is that incorrect medication usage can be dangerous. Many pills need to be taken at a specific time in order to work properly, especially those used for conditions like diabetes. Others need to be taken before or after a meal. Incorrect dosage can prevent meds working properly, and can also lead to more serious side effects requiring hospitalization.
Many seniors find themselves taking more than one medication daily. In fact, a report by AARP found that of the older adults surveyed, the average respondent was on four prescription drugs daily.
Taking the right meds at the right time is a concern for both seniors and their caregivers. That’s where a timed medication dispenser comes in.
How Timed Pill Dispensers Keep Doses On Schedule
A timed pill dispenser makes it much easier to keep medication doses on schedule. Each unit consists of small storage bins for meds and a dispensing drawer. Caregivers simply load up the machine with medication, set the dosing schedule, and let the dispenser do the rest.
When it’s time to take meds, the unit will sound an alarm. Seniors can press a button to have the meds delivered in the correct dose, ready to take.
Most automatic medication dispensers will also sound an alarm if the dose isn’t taken within a certain amount of time. In addition, many units have a caregiver alert function that sends a text message or other alert to caregivers in the case of a missed dose.
Using a timed pill dispenser makes life much easier for seniors, and offers their caregivers extra peace of mind too.
What Features Should I Look For When Buying A Timed Pill Dispenser?
Not all timed dispensers have the same features. We highly recommend looking for the following:
- An alert if a dose doesn’t get picked up on time.
- Caregiver alerts for late or missed doses.
- Easy to fill and program.
- A backup battery in case the power goes out for electronic medication dispensers.
- Being able to use different sizes and shapes of pill in the machine.
- Refill alerts (very helpful in medication management.)
In addition, it’s a good idea to check out the safety features:
- A lockable unit. Even better if you can set a PIN code to decide who can access it.
- Tilt alarms that let caregivers know if someone tampers or tries to get into the machine.
- If the unit offers on-demand meds, look for the ability to set limits around how often they can be issued.
You’ll also want to check on the cost. Many pill dispensers charge a monthly rental fee, with costs ranging from $30 – $99 monthly. Some units can be purchased outright, with no monthly fees.
Three Top Timed Pill Dispensers
Hero is a safe, easy, secure way to store and dispense meds – and you can even set it to order your refills! Get the full scoop about Hero here.
Setup: Hero makes it easy to sort and dispense meds. Simply pour them into the cups, program the machine, and let Hero do the rest. Hero sounds an alert and flashes a light when it comes time to take another dose.
Operation: Hero alerts you as soon as it’s time to take meds. It can even let you know when your meds are running low. If you sign up for the Hero Fill add-on service, it will order your next dose for you and have it delivered to your door.
Number of pills/doses: Takes up to ten different meds and you can fill a month’s supply at once.
Alerts: Yes – Hero will alert you if you miss a dose, or don’t take it on time.
Caregiver alerts: The Hero app lets caregivers track missed or late doses, and also see dispensing history.
Backup battery: No – this is one of the only drawbacks of Hero.
Safety features: You can set a PIN so only a person with the PIN can receive the meds.
Cost: Initial $99.99 initiation fee. After that, $29.99 monthly.
Guarantees or returns: Yes, 30-day risk-free trial.
Anything else: You can set Hero to pre-dispense pills if you’re going to be out and about, so it keeps your schedule running even when you’re not home. Because Hero runs on WiFi, you’ll need a WiFi connection for it to work.
Our verdict: Hero offers robust features at a reasonable price. The lack of backup battery and the need to use the app for programming are slight drawbacks, but we like the Caregiver alert features, 24/7 customer care, and the ability to refill prescriptions as needed.
MedaCube bulk sorts your pills, making it incredibly easy to set up and use. MedaCube has even been tested in FDA-approved trials and shown to increase medication compliance to 97%. Read the full review of MedaCube here.
Setup: Simply pour your medication into the provided holders, set your dosing schedule, and leave MedaCube to sort them for you.
Operation: MedaCube makes an alert sound when it’s time for a dose. Pill dispensing is controlled via a touchscreen.
Number of pills/doses: You can fill up to 16 types of medication, and MedaCube holds enough for a 90-day supply.
Alerts: Yes, users can opt for a call or text if they don’t take their dose within ten minutes.
Caregiver alerts: Yes, caregivers can get alerts of missed or late doses, if a medication needs refilling, or if the unit’s power goes out.
Backup battery: 24 hours.
Safety features: Automatic lockdown feature in case of tilting or tampering. Caregivers can set a PIN for control. They can also set dose limits on as-needed meds.
Cost: One-time payment of $1499, with no ongoing contracts.
Guarantees or returns: MedaCube offers a 100-day money-back guarantee and a two-year warranty.
Anything else: You can opt to see pictures of each dose as given. You can also scan your pharmacist’s QR code to set your med dose.
Our verdict: MedaCube has fantastic safety features and the team has clearly put a lot of thought (and an FDA-approved study) into making their product do what it needs to do. We also appreciate the long guarantee period. The larger upfront payment isn’t ideal, although the flip side of that is there are no monthly fees.
Livefine offers a cheaper, simpler alternative that doesn’t have quite so many bells and whistles.
Setup: Place individual doses into the compartments, based on the day and time of day the dose is to be taken. You can choose from six rotating templates that allow 1 – 6 daily doses.
Operation: When it’s time for a dose, the motorized carousel spins to reveal the pills, which you can then tip out and take. It also sounds an alert.
Number of pills/doses: Holds up to 18 aspirin-sized pills in each compartment, and 28 days of doses, depending on the number of meds (in some cases it holds only a week’s dose.)
Alerts: Custom alerts continue to sound for 30 minutes until the pills are retrieved.
Caregiver alerts: None.
Backup battery: No – the unit runs on disposable batteries, so you’ll need to keep a couple of spares to hand.
Safety features: There’s a manual key to prevent tampering – but please note the site states the unit could be prised open with enough effort.
Cost: $119.99 (at the time of writing it’s on sale for $89.99).
Anything else: You can sign up for a two-year protection plan for $14.40.
Our verdict: This isn’t as feature-rich as the others on the list, and doesn’t offer any caregiver tools. It’s not as quick and easy to program either and needs filling more often. This probably isn’t the best option for caregivers whose loved ones suffer from memory loss, or who need extra supervision. However, for seniors who are capable of taking care of their own meds, but just want to make sorting them more convenient, this could work.
Remembering to take the right meds in the right order is a challenge at any age. A timed pill dispenser makes it so much easier to get the right dose at the right time, which is a relief for mom or dad and for their caregivers too.