What Pill Dispenser Is Best for You?

By Michele C. Hollow  @michelechollow
December 14, 2016

Did you take your meds today? Some of us need reminding. Here’s an overview of what works and what doesn’t.

Many of us have morning routines where we take a few vitamins and other medications. Sometimes, we forget to take our meds and other times we may double the dosage. It’s not intentional, it just slipped our minds. 


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For some people, skipping or doubling up on medications can be harmful. Meryl Moran has two pill dispensers in her kitchen cabinet. They list the days of the week. She marked one with a permanent marker that says “a.m.” and the other with “p.m.” 

“When I get my meds from the pharmacy, I immediately place a week’s worth in these clear plastic dispensers,” she said. “They are cheap, simple to use, and I can look at the day of the week and know if I took my meds or not. I take my morning meds at breakfast and my evening pills right after dinner. I developed a routine.”

She reloads her dispensers on Sunday night so she is set for the week ahead. “Before that, I was overwhelmed and often forgot to take my pills,” she said. “These containers are lightweight, so I can travel with them, too.”

She takes three a.m. pills and two p.m. ones. Her pills easily fit into the long rectangular dispensers. 

Most people use these simple dispensers to keep track of their medications. “I have two dispensers,” Dick Muldoon said. “One sunshine white (it’s a bright white shade) contains my morning pills and the sunset yellow one is for evenings.”

Sharon Downey’s mom takes medications that come in blister packs from the drugstore. Each day is marked and also the morning, noon, and night pills are clearly labeled. “Simple pill dispensers with compartments that mark each day of the week seem to be the most popular,” Downey said. “My mom and her friends live in a retirement village, and most of her friends use those rectangular shaped plastic pill dispensers with the days of the week on them.”

Many of Downey’s friends use this popular plastic pill dispenser that holds a week’s worth of morning and evening pills. It’s lightweight, clearly marked, and sells for under $2.

These pill dispensers are low tech. The downside is that they don’t hold a lot of pills. They do, however, come in different sizes. 

Downey’s husband, who works in the tech industry, tried to get his mother-in-law a pill reminder app for her phone. “It just didn’t work,” Downey said. “My husband loves his iPhone and all of his apps. My mom, not so much. She wasn’t going to use it. Most of the time, she doesn’t turn her phone on.”


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If you prefer high tech gadgets and need an audible reminder, check out GMS Med-e-lert. You can adjust and program the volume, which can last between 30 minutes and until the medication is taken. The newest edition has a blinking light for the hearing impaired. 

The GMS Med-e-lert is about the size of a small paper plate. It’s lightweight and can hold 28 doses of pills. You can also set reminder alarms. It retails between $55 and $60. 

While the beeps are loud, if you’re not nearby, you may not hear it. 

If you hate refilling pill dispensers, check out Livi. It debuts this fall and stores 90 days of meds with enough room per day for up to 15 different pills. It’s designed to keep track of your medication history, and can share that information with your doctors, caregivers, and pharmacist. 

It also provides you with easy to understand instructions on how to take your pills (such as with water, on an empty or full stomach, or with food.). If you miss a dose, a customer service rep at Livi will text your caregiver. Plus, you can adjust the volume of the reminder alarm. 

We couldn’t rate Livi because it’s not available until the fall. Also, the price is not public. The company will charge a monthly rental fee.

Martin Rudd purchased MedMinder for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease. What he likes most about it is that it won’t open until it’s time for the medication. “My dad takes 15 pills each day,” he said. “His caregiver programs MedMinder because my dad takes his pills at five different times a day. It’s confusing to keep track of which pills to take and when. So, this helps, a lot. It also reminds his caregiver.”

MedMinder flashes a light, sounds a beep, and then unlocks and dispenses the medications. Rudd can log on to his computer to see if his dad has complied. If he hasn’t, a prerecorded voice of Rudd’s son reminds his father to take his meds. If his dad still doesn’t, his father gets a reminder phone call and Rudd gets a text, email, or call from MedMinder.

The MedMinder is a rental, and costs $59.99 a month. “It’s more than just a machine,” said Rudd. “We are paying for peace of mind. With my dad’s Alzheimer’s he’s quite forgetful. This system ensures he takes all of his meds at the correct times each day.”

There are positives and negatives about pill dispensers, ranging from how many meds they can hold to the price. Talk to your pharmacist and physician for recommendations. 


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March 31, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN