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How to Remind Elderly People to Take Pills: Schedules, Medication Reminder Apps, & More

Medication reminders for elderly people may be necessary for the sake of their health. Particularly for people living with dementia, limited mobility, or a terminal illness, taking pills—and taking them on time—can be challenging.

Caregivers and family members may become anxious about whether medication is being taken as prescribed.

Find out how to remind someone to take their medication in a compassionate way, including helping them if they refuse to take it, and discover some of the best free medication reminder apps. 

How Do I Remind My Parents to Take Medicine? 5 Tips to Know

Reminding someone to take their medicine is important if they frequently forget, are resistant to taking it, or refuse entirely. Here are 5 medication reminder tips.

1. Schedule a routine

First and foremost, a written schedule that details the exact times pills need to be taken should be created by the caregiver based on the information given on the prescriptions. 

Two separate routines can be created–a morning routine and a bedtime routine. If any medicines need to be taken at lunchtime, account for those as well. 

In the schedule, specify the contexts for taking the pills; for example, with dinner, water, before teeth brushing, after face washing, and so on. This will help create associations with other regular actions that’ll make it easier to remember to take them.

2. Two-way audio camera

Although some seniors, particularly those with progressed dementia or a terminal illness, will need all medications to be administered by an in-person caregiver, many only need an occasional reminder. This doesn’t require a caregiver to be there physically. 

Two-way audio cameras are a useful way to stay in touch virtually. Install in a living room or kitchen, and caregivers can get in touch throughout the day to have a chat and provide reminders. 

AlfredCam plugged into a USB socket

There are plenty of great alert/notification apps, but chatting back and forth is a much more personal way to offer friendly reminders and keep an eye on seniors. 


3. Pill boxes

A more conventional medical aid for the elderly, pill boxes are great for ensuring the right doses are taken each day. 

Usually split into the 7 days of the week, caregivers can easily organize pills in advance, so that they are easier to take and there is no risk of taking too little or too much of a prescribed medicine. 

4. Phone alerts

Rather than dishing out extra on a pill box with an alarm, caregivers might consider installing a medication reminder alarm app on the phone of the person being cared for. 

Among the more useful medication aids for the elderly, phone alerts could be scheduled simply using the phone’s native alarm, so that an alarm goes off at set times every single day, or a dedicated pill reminder app could be used. 

Medisafe Pill Reminder

Best medication reminder alarm app for iOS 

Medisafe Pill Reminder app
Images via App Store.

This free app is consistently well-ranked on the App Store, and a 4.7 star rating that’s testament to its ease of use.  

Although it’s a great medication aid for the elderly, users can easily monitor fertility, birth control, and other kinds of medicines. 

It syncs to HealthKit to keep track of blood glucose, blood pressure, and other important health stats. 

MyTherapy Pill Reminder

Best medication reminder alarm app for Android

MyTherapy Pill Reminder app
Image via Google Play Store.

MyTherapy is a med tracker that goes a little above and beyond the call of duty, combining other features like a mood diary and weight tracker, which might be of use to some people. 

For present purposes, it has pill reminders that are easy to set-up. It’s free and well reviewed, with a 4.7 star rating.

5. Smart home alerts

If a senior doesn’t use their phone a great deal, another great way to set up reminders to take pills is through a smart device, like a smart speaker or watch.

Much like a phone, a smart speaker can schedule reminders using voice commands, which might be easier to manage than using a screen device for those with limited mobility, poor vision, or an aversion to smartphones.

What to Do When an Elderly Parent Refuses to Take Medication

Much like eating and drinking, sometimes an elderly parent may refuse to take their medication. This can be awkward and difficult for a caregiver to overcome, and stressful for the family.

If an elderly parent refuses to take medication:

Recognize what may be behind their refusal – anxiety and depression may be causing feelings of apathy in regards to medication. Similarly, people diagnosed with dementia may feel aggravated or confused by having to take medication. 

Whatever it is, don’t dismiss the person’s refusal as ‘being difficult’. Chat with them and be compassionate–ask how they are feeling, and if something is bothering them. 

Mental health problems should always be taken seriously, so never shy away from bringing it up with their doctor.

Offer the drug in a different form – if it becomes apparent that the elderly parent has issues swallowing or even dislikes the taste of the medication, discuss with their doctor about alternative forms of the drug. 

Oftentimes, a pill may come in a liquid medicine, or even a patch that can be worn.

Put the medication in tasty food or drink – if the refusal to take medication continues and starts to have a detrimental impact on the person’s health, consider concealing it in food or drink. 

Crushing up a pill can alter how the medicine is absorbed and its efficacy, so always consult a doctor prior to doing this to get their approval and guidance first. 

They can also recommend food and drink that it can be concealed in.

How do you remind someone with dementia to take medication?

People with a dementia diagnosis may struggle to take medication because it causes feelings of anxiety, distress, or confusion. They may also feel apathetic about taking it, which may indicate poor mental health.

Be kind, compassionate and patient. Consider requesting the drug in a different form, and if they still refuse, it may be necessary to conceal medication in food or drink, so long as the doctor has given their approval.


How can I create a pill-taking schedule for an elderly person?

  1. Gather up the person’s prescriptions, which should detail when and how often the pill must be taken. 
  2. List out all the pills that need to be taken. Establish which need to be taken every day and which don’t. Include any notes, like whether they need to be taken with food or not in conjunction with something else.
  3. On a separate piece of paper/document, list the pills under ‘Morning’, ‘Lunchtime’ and ‘Bedtime/Evening’ headings as prescribed, ticking off each medication once listed.
  4. If some medications need to only be taken a few times a week, create the following daily medication chart:
  1. Buy a pill box with the 7 days of the week on it and put the pills in it in advance of each week beginning.
Are there any tools or apps that can help remind elderly people to take their pills?

Pill boxes are a tried-and-true way to stay on top of taking pills regularly. Apps like MyTherapy and Medisafe are also great ways to remind elderly people to take pills, because they send notifications to devices as scheduled.

What are some creative ways to encourage an elderly person to take their pills?

Should I monitor an elderly person to ensure they’re taking their pills as prescribed?

Yes, monitoring an elderly person with their consent can be beneficial if a caregiver suspects they are not taking their pills as prescribed.  

How can I make sure an elderly person’s medication is organized and easily accessible?

Arrange the medication into a pill box in advance of the week starting so that it is already organized for the person taking it. If the box doesn’t have a medication reminder device built-in, set alarms or use medication reminder alarm apps to notify them at appropriate times.


Medication reminders are important for keeping health at the forefront of daily life. Monitoring may be necessary for those that regularly miss taking medication, but seniors living with later stages of dementia, terminal illnesses, or significantly reduced mobility will need their medicine administered to them by a caregiver in-person.