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best automatic pill dispensers for elderly peope

The Best Automatic Pill Dispensers for Elderly and Seniors

Making sure that seniors and the elderly take their medication properly is an exhausting task. So many pills look alike. It is difficult to remember which pill is which. It is perhaps even harder to remember which pills to take at which time. For the senior who may also be dealing with dementia, Alzheimer's, or just getting a little forgetful, managing medications becomes impossible. And even dangerous. Taking their medication correctly is important to the overall safety of the elderly. While there are many medication management tools on the market, here are the best automatic pill dispensers for elderly and seniors to help out.

Comparison Table: The Best Automatic Pill Dispensers for Elderly and Seniors

Automatic Pill Dispensers

LiveFine Automatic Dispenser

e-Pill Automatic Dispenser with Tipper

MedReady 1700 Pill Dispenser

e-Pill Locked Automatic Dispenser

Photo

LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispenser, 28-Day Electronic Medication Organizer with Alarm Reminders,...
Automatic Pill Dispenser with Lock. Up to 6 Daily Alarms e-pill Station. Helps Prevent Double...
MedReady 1700 Medication Dispenser, with Flashing Light (1700FL)
e-pill MedSmart Automatic Locked Automatic Pill Dispenser for Home or Institutional Use - Dispenses...

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Full Review

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Full Review

Capacity

28 slots that each hold 18 aspirins

28 slots that each hold 18 aspirins

28 slots that each hold 9 medium pills

28 slots that each hold 20 aspirin

Program Cycles

6 times a day

6 times a day

4 times a day

6 times a day

Alarms

4 alarms that sounds up to
30 min.

 4 alarms that sounds up to
30 min.

 2 alarms that sounds up to
240 min.

 1 alarm that sounds until meds taken

Missed Doses

Cannot be made up

Cannot be made up

Cannot be made up

Cannot be made up

Security

1 key - can be pried open

1 key - can be pried open

2 keys - difficult to pry open

2 keys - most difficult to pry

Power

4 AA batteries

4 AA batteries

AC Adapter

AC docking station

Weight

12 oz

4.4 lb

2 lb

1.8 lb

My Rating

How do automatic pill dispensers work?

​Automatic pill dispensers can bring peace of mind to caregivers and family members. Here is how they work. A caregiver loads the correct pills and dosages into the dispenser. The dispenser is then set to dispense the meds at a certain time. At the right time, the machine moves the meds to a door or chute that gives the senior access to the pills. To reduce risk of over medicating, a key is required to open the dispenser. Chances of a drug error are greatly reduced with an automatic pill dispenser. Most models will also sound an alarm signalling the senior that is time for their pills.

What should you look for in an automatic pill dispenser?

elderly man taking pills needs automated pill dispenser

​There are many factors to consider when looking at automatic pill dispenser options. As you read through these, decide which are the most important to you or your loved one’s needs. This will help you decide if an automatic pill dispenser is the right option.

Device Capacity

There are 2 parts that make up a device's capacity: the total slots available and the total pills per slot. These devices work by using rotating trays of slots. Each slot holds a dosage time's worth of pills. The larger that each slot is, the more pills that the slot will hold.​

The total slots (compartments) is important because it sets how often the machine will need refilling. Think of it this way. If a tray has 28 total slots and the senior takes pills 3 times per day, you will refill the machine every 9 days. To figure this out, divide the total number of slots by the number of dosages a day. It is important to make sure someone is available within the refill time period to refill the machine when needed. The best automatic pill dispenser for elderly is one that doesn't have to be messed with very often.

The size of the slots is an important feature also. If the senior only takes a few small pills at a time, any of these dispensers would be ok. BUT, if they take large capsules or many pills at once, choose a unit with larger compartment sizes. It is important that the proper size be used because if pills are forced in the slots, they could use the machine to jam.

Programming Capabilities

Programming capabilities of each pill dispenser vary. It is important to find a machine that is capable of dispensing medication the number of times per day the patient requires. Most of the automated pill dispensers I reviewed release meds up to 6 times a day. Some though can only dispense 4 times per day.

Because these machines are electronic, you should have basic tech skills or know someone who is. If you can set the time on your microwave or the alarm on a cell phone, you will be fine. Once the dispensing times are set, the machine saves this information using battery backups. A few of these allow programming of the alarm sounds and length of time the alarm sounds. This is important if the senior is hard of hearing and needs a little help hearing the alarm.

elderly woman taking pills with glass of water.

Alarms and Reminders

A loud alarm is necessary to remind many seniors that it is time for pills. Some units offer a choice of alarms while others offer just a basic alarms. Others even add flashing lights to alert the senior. Unless the senior has significant hearing loss, the basic alarms of these automated pill dispensers are loud enough.

Another important consideration is to know how the alarm turns off once the senior has taken the pills. Find one where the alarms shuts off automatically. Also, make sure your loved one is physically able to shut the alarm off as needed.

Missed Dosages

When considering the use of an automated pill dispenser, have a plan in place about how to handle missed dosages. While missed doses are less frequent than manually taking meds, it is possible if the patient doesn’t hear the alarm or is a heavy sleeper. Most of these systems use rotating trays to line up medication dosages with a door. Only one dosage is available at a time. So, if the senior misses taking the dose during the time window, the missed dose will rotate back into the machine. It is impossible to get to it without a key to unlock the unit. This is a nearly universal fact of automated pill dispensers. 

Security Features

The machine you choose should offer some level of security. Some seniors are easily agitated or just curious and may want to open the machine. This would give them access to all the pills in the dispenser at one time. This could lead to an overdose. Look for a dispenser that is solidly built and offers a lock on the lid to the medication slots.

Power Options

Some dispensers are continuously powered through an AC adapter cord and some use batteries. If you hate buying batteries, look for one that uses an AC power cord. Most of these also have batteries for back up for times that the power goes out.

Automatic Pill Dispenser Reviews

LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispenser

LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispenser, 28-Day Electronic Medication Organizer with Alarm Reminders,...

This LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispense works by using a motorized rotating carousel to dispense medications at programmed times. The tray inside turns at the proper time releasing the next dose at the door. The user just picks up the device and shakes the pills into their hand. This automated pill dispenser also has an alarm and reminder tools.

What you should know:
  • Device Capacity. This dispenser has up to a 28 day capacity but that is only if the senior takes one batch of medications a day. That isn’t the reality for most though. The device has 28 slots that will each hold up to 18 aspirin-sized pills. It comes with template rings that go into the center of the carousel that tell the patient which does they are using. For example, if the user takes meds twice a day, you would use the template that says “Sun Morn, Sun Eve, Mon Morn, Mon Eve, etc”. This affects your capacity of course. Now you have a 14 day capacity because you took 28 slots and divided them into 2 per day (28 divided by 2 =14). So, if pills are taken 3 times a day, a capacity is 9 days; 4 times a day is 7; 5 times a day is 5 days, and so on. The templates and programming of this one max out at 6 times per day.
  • Alarms and Reminders. The LiveVive Automated Pill Dispenser alerts the senior that it is time to take their pills through buzzers, sounds and flashing lights. These alerts sound and flash for up to 30 minutes. There are 4 sounds to choose from for seniors who may have hearing difficulties. The alarm turns off by tipping the dispenser to get the medication.
  • Missed Doses. If the patient ignores the alarms and does not take the pills by the time the next dose is due, the slots will rotate so that they have no access to the missed dose. This is helpful to prevent double dosing later. It is also useful to see if the senior is missing doses because you will see the slots still filled when refilling and the template ring will tell you when that happened.
  • Security Features. This device does lock with a key to limit access to the pills. This device can be pried open though if the elderly person is strong enough. Keep that in mind if the user gets agitated easily or is curious. Extra keys are available for this dispenser for multiple caregivers or for backup. There have been some complaints online about the keys failing to open the device. Most of these complaints happened when the machine was flipped over to unlock. Seems like the best way to unlock is hold it up over your head and unlock from underneath.
  • Requires 4 AA batteries (included).
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 7.9 x 3.9 inches and weighs 12 oz

Because this dispenser requires a little more work than others, I recommend it for seniors with some level of independence. At least, they must hear the alarms and understand how to get the pills out. This will need some hand dexterity to keep them from spilling. If the person spends much time alone, consider their mobility needs. Keep the dispenser close if the patient has mobility problems. If the user is likely to tamper with the dispenser, remember that this one could pry open.

LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispenser, 28-Day Electronic Medication Organizer with Alarm Reminders,...
  • Motorized 28-Slot Carousel Rotates & Delivers Scheduled Medicine; Great for Seniors & Caregivers
  • Audible & Visual Alerts Sound & Flash Up to 30 Minutes When Pills Are Due; Simply Flip & Remove...
  • Multiple Templates Allow Up to 6 Alerts Per Day; Program Exact Dispense Time for Custom Treatment
  • High-Capacity Slots Accommodate Up to 18 Pills & Maximum 28 Days of Treatment for Minimal Refill

Last update on 2017-10-23 at 19:11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

e-Pill Automatic Pill Dispenser with Lock, Tipper, and Medicine Dispensing Cup

Automatic Pill Dispenser with Lock. Up to 6 Daily Alarms e-pill Station. Helps Prevent Double...

Reviewer Note: the locking unit that holds the pills is the EXACT SAME unit as the LiveVive automatic pill dispenser I reviewed before. It is just being sold under a different name. e-pill makes these units under several different private labeled brands. The features and use of the unit works the same as my review on the LiveVive unit. So, I am not going to repeat a lot of that information here.

This product does add to ease of use of the automatic pill dispenser above by mounting it to a standing tipper. When the alarm goes off, the senior can easily tip the dispenser by pulling a soft rubber handle. The tipper uses “sticky feet” to keep the dispenser from moving while using it. Permanent mounting with screws is another option. The pills then fall into a stainless steel cup that the elderly person uses to take the pills. The dispenser then returns to its stand-by position until time for the next dose!

The senior dumps their medication into a metal cup instead of into their hand. I like this idea because it keep pills from spilling or dropping on the ground. This is important because it reduces the chance of a fall caused by a senior looking for lost pills. The tipper will also silence the alarm because the tipping motion is what turns the alarm off.

A few cautions about using this system. The user must remember to return the stainless steel cup after taking their medication. If they do not, and then use the tipper at the next dose, the pills could fall into the floor or other places. This could cause a fall situation if the patient tries to find the missing pills. Make sure teaching the user to always return the cup is part of the patient education.

I really like the idea of adding the tipper unit to the e-pill/ GMS/LiveFine automatic pill dispenser with lock. It addresses  my concerns about seniors dropping or losing medicine by having to shake it from the other automatic pill dispensers. While this system isn't as portable, it is one of the best automatic pill dispensers for elderly people.

Automatic Pill Dispenser with Lock. Up to 6 Daily Alarms e-pill Station. Helps Prevent Double...
  • Pill Dispenser Automated. Home or institutional use.
  • Easy-to-Use e-pill Dispenser. Up to 6 Daily Alarms.
  • Automatic Pill Dispenser. Large Pill Capacity. Easy Dose Verification Tray.
  • Pill Box, Tipper, Easy Dose Verification Clear Medication Tray and Medicine Dispensing Cup included.
  • Pillbox with Lock. No Monthly Fees. Patent 9,198,834 & 9,539,177

Last update on 2017-10-23 at 19:11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

MedReady 1700 Medication Dispenser with Flashing Light

MedReady 1700 Medication Dispenser, with Flashing Light (1700FL)

This automatic medication dispenser with flashing light by MedReady works on a similar idea as others I have reviewed. It uses a rotating tray that moves the next dose of medication to a door at the dosage time. The big advantage to this unit is that it is more difficult to force open that the others.

Details on the Medication Dispenser with Flashing Light:
  • Device Capacity. Like many of the other electronic pill dispensers I have reviewed, this one has 28 compartments. The compartments are a bit smaller ( 1 x 1/2 x 3/4 in) than some of the others though. They hold 9 medium-sized pills per compartment. Like the others, if the elderly person takes 2 doses, you’ll need to refill it every 14 days; 3 doses per day means refilling every 9 days; 4 doses per day means refilling every 7 days. This dispenser has a maximum of 4 doses per day.
  • Alarms and Reminders. This dispenser features both audible and flashing light alarms. The amount of time the alarms go off is programmable up to 240 minutes. This is a longer alarm time than other dispensers making it likely that the senior will take their pills within the dosage time frame. The device is also programmable to use both alarms, only one type, or none at all. The alarm stops once the door opens.
  • Programmable Up To 4 Doses per Day. This medication dispenser is programmable to dispense up to 4 times per day at custom times.
  • Missed Doses. If the user misses a dose, they can not get it back. When the tray rotates at the next dosage time, the missed pills will go back into device. This lets you know what doses were missed and when. However, have a plan in place on how to make up those doses if required by physician instructions.
  • Security Features. It is difficult to tamper with this unit but it is possible. The door has a lock and comes with two keys. This is an important safety feature if the elderly person gets curious or agitated and tempted to try to open the machine. The manufacturer represents it as tamper-proof. That has not what my research has shown however. I have read a few complaints about patients forcing the tray to rotate.
  • Powered by AC Adapter with backup battery.
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 12 x 3.5 in. Weighs about 2 lb.

Overall, there is a lot to like about this automatic pill dispenser. I like it because of the different alarm types and the unique programming options. It is the best automatic pill dispenser for elderly people who take pills less than 4 times a day.

MedReady 1700 Medication Dispenser, with Flashing Light (1700FL)
  • Audible alarm notifies patient of dosage times
  • 28 compartments hold up to 9 pills each
  • Locked lid prevents tampering with medication
  • Plugs into power outlet and includes backup battery
  • Model: With Flashing Light

Last update on 2017-10-23 at 19:11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

e-pill Automatic Locked Pill Dispenser

e-pill MedSmart Automatic Locked Automatic Pill Dispenser for Home or Institutional Use - Dispenses...

The e-pill Automatic Locked Pill Dispenser is a high-end and full featured solution for managing daily meds. It features a heavy-duty, tamper resistant construction and larger pill capacity. The alarm offers improvements over other pill dispensers too!

  • Device Capacity. This dispenser has 28 slots to hold a dosage of medication. Each slot holds up to 20 aspirin-sized pills. This capacity is one of the largest I have seen. It also includes template rings that do on the tray to help track doses. For example, if the user takes meds twice a day, choose the template that says “Sun Morn, Sun Eve, Mon Morn, Mon Eve, etc”. To calculate how often to refill the tray divide 28 by the number of doses per day. So, if dosages are 3 times a day, refill time is 9 days; 4 times a day is 7; 5 times a day is 5 days, and so on. The templates and programming max out at 6 times per day.
  • Alarms and Reminders. This automatic locked pill dispenser uses a loud alarm and flashing lights to tell them it is time to take their medicine. As long as the unit stays plugged in, the alarm will not shut off until the pills are removed from the dispenser. On battery power, the alarm sounds for 90 minutes. Once the senior has dumped the pills in their hand by tipping the device, the alarm shuts off until next dosing time.
  • Missed Doses. Because the dispenser uses a rotating tray, missed doses cannot be taken later. Once the next dosage time has come, the missed dosage will rotate into the machine. This helps the caregiver monitor missed doses. The senior should have fewer missed doses with this model because of the continuous sounding alarm.
  • Security Features. This device uses a robust lock that comes with 2 keys. This lock is strong and durable and would be difficult to force it open. Of course, with determination a person may figure out a way around the lock but it is pretty solid overall.
  • Unique power system. The included dock stays connected to AC power. The dispenser should stay on the dock any time it is not dispensing pills. It uses batteries as a backup system for times the dispenser is not on the dock or for power outages.
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 8.5 x 2.5 inches and weighs 1.8 lbs

This is the best automatic pill dispenser for elderly people who can afford a high-end medication management tool. There are a lot of unique features to love about this one. It is the most tamper-resistant of the automated pill dispensers I have reviewed. I also love that the alarm will not stop sounding until the user has taken their medication.

e-pill MedSmart Automatic Locked Automatic Pill Dispenser for Home or Institutional Use - Dispenses...
  • Simple to Use for the Patient. Fully Automatic Locked Medication Dispenser.
  • Early Dose with Patient Compliance Dashboard.
  • Simple to setup Long Alarm Duration. Never stops until picked up.
  • Lockable with 2 keys included
  • 6 Daily Alarms. Home or Institutional Use.

Last update on 2017-10-23 at 19:11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Questions or Comments?

Which do you think is the best automatic pill dispenser for elderly and seniors? Do you have any experience with managing meds you would like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

I work daily with seniors and the elderly in my position as a wheelchair specialist at a home medical company. I see the struggle they have maintaining their independence and living their daily lives. Most are completely unaware of the options and products out there that can improve their independence, mobility, and safety in their home. I created this site to help seniors, elders, and their caregivers make smart buying decisions about the many independent living aids on the market.

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