January 8, 2013

Little Things That Make A Big Difference to Me

I thought I'd start the new year with a brief (remember: Less Is More) photo post on a couple little things I came up with last year to help me and my receding memory. Here goes:

Pill Splitter and Reminder
With one exception, I do all my pill popping when I get up, or when I go to bed. It's easy to remember to take these pills. With the same one exception, it really doesn't matter much if I forget and skip a pill.

The one exception is Sinemet (generic: carbidopa-levodopa). I'm supposed to take this pill four times a day at about six hour intervals. After my "joy of quiet" meditation hour, I try to keep this pill schedule: 5am, 11am, 5pm, and 11pm. The first and last are easy to remember. But I was having trouble with the two middle pills: remembering to take them in the first place, and then remembering IF I'd taken them. Messing up the Sinemet schedule carries consequences: skipping the 11am pill, for example, would would create serious balance problems for me by mid-afternoon.

I finally found a system that works for me (shown below). At bedtime, I set up my pill splitter for the next day. What you see in this photo is the four daily carbidopa-levodopa pills. The white pills are the two halves of a 1mg Azilect tablet. Azilect is usually prescribed for people with Parkinson's in addition to the carbidopa-levodopa therapy. As with most of my meds, I've found that cutting the pill in half seems to work as well as taking a whole pill. So at 5am the next day, I'll start off with one-half of an Azilect and one of the four carbidopa-levodopa pills.

Now, let's pretend it's 11:30 the next morning and, as is often the case, I'm asking myself: "Did I take my 11 o'clock pill?" I look at the pill splitter and see that only the 5am pill is missing. The other pill splitter at right shows my 5-HTP supplement and my blood pressure pill -- both split in half -- and the remaining half of my statin for cholesterol.

Here's One I Need To Work On
Since I can get in trouble if I forget one of my scheduled levodopa-carbidopa pills, I need to do a better job of always carrying this pill container (I use a contact lens case). I'm often away from the house (and my pills) for an outing I thought would be over in plenty of time for me to return for my next scheduled levodopa-carbidopa. Then something else comes up that I'd like to do on the outing, but I can't because I need to return home to take the med. I must develop the habit of always taking this back-up resource with me.

Keeping a Blood Pressure and General Health Journal
I'm experimenting with cutting back on my blood pressure med (Tribenzor). After two emergency room trips, I know that too much 5-HTP (the serotonin booster that is one of the three supplements I still take) can cause pressure spikes. So I've been using a bp monitor in the morning and at bedtime. I record the pressure stats in a journal, and now add comments about any changes in my health routine. I've found this process helpful.

For example, I've been trying various ways of dealing with my bad back: different physical therapy exercises, steroid shots, etc. It helps to have a record of what I was trying at different times, and with what results.

Keeping the Meds List on My i-Phone
Anytime you go to a doctor's office these days, you must fill out a bunch of information, including the meds and supplements you're taking, the dosages, and the schedule. I tried in the past to remember to bring my list, but usually forgot. 

Then I decided to add a new contact to my i-Phone: "Med Schappi." In the comment space for Mr. Med Schappi, I keep a list of my meds and supplements, so this info is now readily available when I'm in a doctor's office... assuming I remembered to bring my i-Phone.

Here's' the i-Phone entry:

And the message:


kaitlyn roland said...

what a great idea, adding current meds to your phone contact in case of emergencies! i'll definitely pass that along, thanks!



John said...

I saw my dermatologist today and his assistant was delighted when, in response to her question about the meds I take, I handed her the i-Phone list.

Nancy Ryerson said...

Hi John,
I'm on the marketing team at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. We're interested in sharing one of your blog posts on our website. Could you email me at nryerson@michaeljfox.org if you're interested? Thank you!

Michelle Simmons said...

It can be hard to keep track of it sometimes, especially if you’re not at home at the time. Having a to-go kit really helps, and that list on your phone was a nice touch. Another thing you could’ve done was create a recurring alarm on your phone, so that you’ll be reminded to take your meds during the day. Of course, you’ll have to keep your phone nearby at all times for that to work. Anyway, thank you for sharing this post with us, John. Take care!

Michelle Simmons @ Comfort Keepers

John Schappi said...

I've finally found a way to take my levodopa on time. (This is the only one of my meds where keeping on schedule is crucial.) A electronics-savvy young friend showed me how I can set my cellphone to buzz me at whatever time interval I set. I'm currently trying to keep to a schedule of one carbidopa-levodopa every two hours. So each time I take a pill I set the cellphone to alert me two hours later.Sure I screw up sometimes but much less often than in the past.