Thursday, July 04, 2019

Necessity’s child

There are plenty of times we have to come up with a solution for some issue or problem in our daily lives. It doesn’t matter whether the problem is serious or insignificant, either way we need to find a solution to solve it. I recently faced that over something that wasn’t serious or important, merely annoying, and the solution I came up with was simple, free, and effective.

Back in 2016, at the start of my Health Journey, I bought a 7-day pill storage box to help me keep track of all the pills I was taking. I liked it because, as I said at the time each day was a separate and detachable “pod”, making it convenient the rare times we were going away for the weekend (it’s in the photo at the bottom of this post).

Time passed, and a couple years later they changed around my drugs, adding dabigatran to the mix. That wouldn’t have been a big deal except it was—literally—a big deal: The pills have to be kept in their foil blister packs. There as no way they would fit into those pods—especially because I needed to take two a day. So, I bought a much bigger 7-day pill storage box to put them all into. The photo up top is that storage box (a little worn already).

The two pills at the right side of the photo are the dabigatran. Each pill in in its own section with perforations between them to make them easy to separate, though I tear them as shown and fold them along the perforation in the middle. It’s easy to do and has worked well—until recently.

After my hospital adventure in May, the doctors put me on yet another drug, one called amiodarone, and therein lay the problem I had to solve: The drug was in a blister pack (at the left edge of the photo above), and the instructions said clearly that they had to be kept sealed until taken, too. So, at first I took some scissors (very small scissors I use to trim my moustache) and cut them apart. I did that because I knew that if I didn’t put them in the appropriate day’s compartment, I’d inevitably forget to take it, and apparently that would be very bad.

Cutting them apart turned out to be very difficult (and impossible without very small scissors). I knew that sooner or later I’d accidentally snip open one of those cells (or whatever they’re called), and it would probably happen on a day when I’d already had the pill for that day.

I knew that I needed a new option, one that was easy for me to do, that helped ensure I took the pill every day, and that kept them all together in their blister pack.

I had the idea of using some sort of token that I’d put into each day’s compartment, but there were two obstacles: The token had to be small enough to fit in an increasingly crowded compartment, and I had to have some way of verifying that I’d actually taken the pill for that day, aside from seeing an empty compartment for that day (that’s the way I make sure I take all my other pills).

I originally thought about using some of the ceramic beads I have for blind baking pie pastry, but they’re a bit large, I’d need something to keep the “used” ones in, and there was no specific way for me to double check that a day’s pill was taken.

The solution turned out to be obvious: Those plastic tags from bread bags. They’re recyclable (I think), but I always just chuck them in a tray under the kitchen sink to use when I need to scrape something, rather than using my fingernails (I talked about using them that way at least twice, first some two years ago, then again when I talked about my painting project this past January).

The tag has one side with the various codes and the freshness date, and so far I haven’t found anything that removes that (I tried acetone in May, and that didn’t work), so I used the other, blank side. I grabbed seven tags of three different colours and used a permanent marker to write one or two letters for the day they corresponded to (two when it wasn’t obvious, specifically Tuesday and Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; the tag for Thursday is in the photo above).

First, I should (defensively) say that I can read my own handwriting, so the quality of the lettering wasn’t critical. The reason I used three colours of tags was to make sure that I didn’t use the same colour two days in a row, this to help make it a little easier to tell them apart when I use them.

To use them, I put each day’s pills in their compartments, along with the token for that day. Then, when I take my pills, I grab the box from the chemist with the blister pack in it, pop a pill for that day, and take it. Then I take that day’s token and put in the chemist box with the pills. At the end of the week, when I fill all the compartments for the following week, I take the tokens out of the box from the chemist, and put them in the appropriate compartment, and the process begins again. If I want to double check that I’ve taken a pill, I check the "used" tokens in the box from the chemist (this is actually a check I can't perform for any of the other pills).

My solution was free (I had the bread bag tags already), easy to do, and—so far—works perfectly. It didn’t occur to me right away, but when it did it was kind a duh! moment: So obvious.

Considering how much I love my technology, one might wonder why I don’t use some sort of electronic, well, something. I don’t know for sure, but I bet there are Apps that would track my pill-taking for me, but there’s one slight problem with that: The drugs affect my memory, and I may forget whether I took all my pills for that day, and checking them off on a list wouldn’t be actual proof. I needed something physical and non-electronic.

This is why I use a good old-fashioned compartmentalised 7-day pill box—for me, it’s very nearly fool-proof. However, that meant I needed to come up with a way to leave the amiodarone alone in its blister pack while also having a physical way of telling whether I had taken the pill or not. Wins abound in this story, and no electricity or wifi is needed.

There are plenty of times we have to come up with a solution for some issue or problem in our daily lives, including some insignificant ones. This wasn’t a serious problem, but the solution I came up with was simple, free, and effective.

I love when a plan comes together.


Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Quite possibly—probably, maybe. When I look absently at NZ's online auction site (similar to eBay), I often end up looking at typewriters…

rogerogreen said...

Or maybe, deep don in your heart, you're just OLD school!