It’s no secret that seniors have the highest medicine consumption rates in the United States. As we age, our need for medications seems to grow.
However, overdosing and missed doses are real issues affecting this demographic. And, unfortunately, the consequences of drug non-compliance often lead to hospitalizations, escalating health costs, aggravation of diseases, and sometimes even death.
The most common reason for this problem is confusion due to the sheer number of medications that have to be managed combined with cognitive decline.
But, there is a solution to this problem.
Automatic pill dispensers can help you or a loved one take the correct doses of the right medications at the right time and help prevent these problems.
Here’s what you need to know about them.
- What Are Automatic Pill Dispensers?
- How Does An Automatic Pill Dispenser Work?
- What Are the Benefits of an Automatic Medication Dispenser?
- Are There Any Disadvantages to Using an Electronic Pill Dispenser?
- Reviews of the Best Pill Dispensers
- Buying Guide: What to Look for When Buying a Pill Dispenser
Quick Pick: What is the Overall Best Automatic Pill Dispenser?
As Low as $29.99/month
If you are looking for the best of the best when it comes to automatic medication dispensing, Hero Health has the best overall package. Especially for seniors and the elderly who live independently and have remote or distant caregivers.
The device is controlled via a smartphone app that is (usually) installed on the caregiver’s phone. The caregiver can set the medication schedule, check historical data, and even get notifications if a dosage is missed.
All the elder has to do is press the large orange-ringed button when the alert sounds. Very simple.
WiFi, internet service, and a monthly subscription are required. A smartphone is needed for setup only.
What Are Automatic Pill Dispensers?
Automatic medication dispensers are automated electronic devices that dispense pills automatically at set times throughout the day. The devices have several compartments and can store anywhere from one week’s supply of pills to a few months’ supply of different pills.
They are ideally suited for those suffering from long-term health conditions or those with cognitive impairments, such as those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that are required to take medication regularly but may struggle to remember when they should take it.
Another common use is for seniors who have a complicated medication regimen and want to make sure they get it right.
How Does An Automatic Pill Dispenser Work?
Automatic medication dispensers have compartments that are filled, usually by caregivers, with the correct dosages of medications that are given at one time. Often, the storage system is behind a locking mechanism to prevent tampering.
Next, the devices are programmed to give reminders at certain times of day when the medications are due. These machines then dispense the meds – and only the meds that are needed – at the touch of a button or by opening an access door. Which method depends on the organizer you choose.
What Are the Benefits of an Automatic Medication Dispenser?
Automatic medication dispensers play a critical role in promoting medication management by helping organize medication in advance and dispensing it at the prescribed times.
Here are other benefits:
Ease of Medicine Retrieval
Automatic pill dispensers readily dispense medications at prescribed times. You don’t have to struggle with the cap of a bottle to reach the medicine. Most dispensers have a mechanism that rotates the tray thus releasing the medication. All you need to do is pick it up and swallow.
Labels on pill bottles sometimes come in small print that can be difficult to read especially if you have vision problems. Opening them is also time-consuming. If you have an automatic dispenser, you load the pills once and only reload after a long period. This saves time and gets rid of frustration.
Prevents Medication Errors
If you are an elderly person, it can be easy to skip doses or take the wrong medication. With an automatic medication dispenser, however, you never have to worry about taking the right medication in the right dosage since it is pre-sorted.
Reminder to Take Medication
Mild cognitive decline is an unfortunate but common part of aging. With these devices, you won’t need to rely on your memory, since it will remind you exactly when to take the medication. This greatly improves your medication adherence and safety too!
Freedom and Independence
Having an electronic pill dispenser helps reduce the workload of your caregivers and gives them peace of mind. It also frees you from having to rely on another person to give you your medicine several times a day. It can help you live a more independent life.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Using an Electronic Pill Dispenser?
A medication dispenser is an invaluable tool for preventing the mismanagement of medication, but it does not prevent all drug dispensing and medication adherence errors, which means that it isn’t the magic bullet for ending all adverse drug administration errors.
Reviews of the Best Pill Dispensers
Here are my reviews and personal options of some of the best automatic pill dispensers for seniors. I hope you find this section useful for narrowing down your choices.
Hero Health Smart Pill Dispenser
- Up to 90 days of medicine
- Visible and audible alarms
- Caregiver notifications
- Pharmacy refill service
The Hero Health Smart Pill Dispenser is a fully automatic pill dispensing solution that takes the hassle, forgetting, worry, and stress from medication management.
For starters, it holds 90 days worth of up to 10 different medications at a time. So, you don’t have to worry about who is going to fill it up each week. This is great for long-distance caregivers who help their elderly loved ones with their medicines. Plus, you can even use Hero Health’s pharmacy service to get automatic refills when it’s time.
The Hero medication dispenser is controlled via a smartphone app which means you can even manage it remotely. With the app, you can set the dispensing schedule, check historical data, and even get notifications when a dosage is missed.
The dispenser itself has a great design and looks like a high-end coffee maker or small appliance. It sounds an alarm letting the person you care for know it is time to take their medication. They then just tap the button on the front and the pills are dispensed into a med cup at the bottom.
I highly recommend the Hero Smart Dispenser because of the peace of mind it can bring older adults and their caregivers and loved ones. Yes, it does require an internet connection and is a subscription-based service. But, Hero Health offers a 90-day money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied.
- Holds up to 90 days of medicine
- Can schedule up to 10 different daily doses and medications
- Has both visible and audible alarms
- This dispenser can automatically order refills when needed
- Pay with HSA or FSA money (and possibly insurance, based on your plan)
- No back-up battery power.
- Can’t handle gummies, liquids, or halved/quartered pills
- Setup requires a smartphone and app
MedReady 1700 Medication Pill Dispenser
- Tamper-proof, locking lid
- Loud alarm
- Optional flashing light
- 28 compartments
The MedReady 1700 is a more basic automatic pill dispenser for older adults looking to test out the idea of using a medication management device. It has 28 compartments capable of holding up to 9 pills each.
It has an 85-decibel alarm that sounds when it is time for the next dose. It alerts/dispenses up to 4 times a day. It also has a tamper-proof lockable lid and battery backup in case of a power shortage.
The MedReady 1700 is a great tool, especially for caregivers since it is so accessible and simple. However, it has its drawbacks with the biggest one is that it has an audible alarm system instead of a visual one, which means that it might not be so helpful for those with hearing issues.
However, it is now available in a flashing light model too. Just select the 1700 FL under the model drop down. This model has a dual alarm system; one visual (flashing light) and the other one audio. You can use one, both, or none. You don’t have access to missed doses to help you avoid overdosing.
- Just enough features without being too complicated
- Decent pill capacity to meet the needs of most users
- Battery backup system in case of a power outage
- Lockable lid
- Loud enough for those that are hard of hearing
- Cannot retake a missed dose
- A visual alarm is available but it costs $10 extra.
Medcenter Monthly Pill Organizer
The MedCenter monthly pill organizer can hold up to 60 pills depending on their size. It uses a color-coding system to help caregivers keep up with the daily medications and when the last medication for the day has been given. The alarm system can be programmed for up to 4 medication reminders per day. It is battery-powered and uses AA batteries.
The pill compartments have dates inscribed on them and the date on the compartment can be easily matched to that on your alarm as well as the clock on your display. That ensures that you are always taking the proper dose.
The pill organizer accompanying the alarm is lightweight plastic thus making it easy for caregivers to clean and transport. Plus, the alarm comes with large buttons and a large display to allow for easy access even for those with eyesight problems.
The alarm has a loud alert and can be set to sound up to 4 times per day making it unlikely for it not to be heard. The pill organizer alerts caregivers when it is the right time for taking medication as well as when the next dose will be.
Setting the alert alarm is easy, which means that caregivers won’t have any problem reminding their loved ones that it is time to take their medication. However, the 4 alarm limit may not be enough for some people.
This video, while a bit commercial, shows how this system works:
- 31 pillboxes with 4 compartments each
- Easy color-coded system to mark days that are done
- Large screen display
- Loud alarm that can be set to go off up to 4 times daily
- Considering that it’s a monthly organizer, expect it to take up a lot of counter space
- Time-consuming to load all of the pills inside the 124 individual compartments
MED-E-LERT Automatic Pill Dispenser With Clear Top
- 28 compartments
- Reminder with alarm
- Up to 6 doses per day
The MED-E-LERT Automatic Pill Dispenser has 28 compartments that allow loading up to 18 aspirin-sized pills each. It can be programmed to dispense a maximum of 6 doses a day. You may not have to reload until after one month depending on your dosage. It is powered by AA batteries and comes with a manual key to prevent inadvertent opening.
The dispenser has clearly labeled compartments and it has a secure lid as well as a digital clock face in the middle. The lid has been designed to be tamper-proof to ensure that seniors never overdose, get confused, or change the order of the drugs. It provides both visual and audible alerts when it is time to take medication thus increasing the chance of the user noticing the dispenser.
Here is the manufacturer’s instructional video for more info:
- Visual and audible alerts
- Classic, but highly effective rotating system
- Stores hundreds of pills at one go, which makes it easier to load
- Dosage settings are stored even if the battery runs out
- It has in-built power-saving features with the display turning off after 10 minutes thus saving power
- Battery replacement can be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- The cover can be pried open
MedQ Daily Pill Box with Flashing Light
- 14 compartments
- Graduated alarm
- Weekly or biweekly
The MedQ Daily Pill Box with Flashing Light has 14 pill box containers that can hold a maximum of 10 pills each. It can be set for either a once-a-day or twice-a-day reminder. If you set the once-a-day reminder, it will be filled for a 2-week cycle. If you choose the twice-a-day reminders, it will be filled for a 1-week cycle.
The MedQ daily medication reminder alarm system starts softly and gradually increases in volume to avoid agitating the user. It also offers anti-skid bottom to ensure that it stays firmly in place, easy-to-open pill compartments, as well as a low battery indicator to help you and/or your caregiver keep the unit in proper working condition. The alarm light flashes too for additional notification.
Because of its smaller size, it is highly portable either at home or on short trips. You can even take out the pill reminder compartments, which allows for easier cleaning or carrying your scheduled pills with you as opposed to the entire pill box.
The device is simple to use since you only have to fill it once a week or every other week depending on the medication schedule. But this also means the overall storage capacity is limited if you take multiple medications multiple times per day.
See the Med-Q in action in the following video:
- Alarm gradually increases in volume to make sure it is heard.
- Easily portable for traveling seniors.
- Dual alarm system uses flashing lights and loud beeps.
- Only needs filled weekly or bi-weekly.
- Removable compartments can be carried with you instead of entire box.
- Limited capacity compared to other models.
- No notification for missed doses.
e-Pill MedTime XL Advanced Automatic Pill Dispenser
The e-Pill MedTime XL Advanced Automatic Pill Dispenser provides an alert and dispenses medication up to 28 times before it has to be reloaded. It has 28 compartments capable of holding 15 aspirin-sized pills each. It can be programmed for up to 28 alarms a day.
The e-Pill MedTime XL Advanced Dispenser flashes a light and rings an alarm until it is turned upside down to pour the pills into the hand. It only turns off after 1 hour if it isn’t turned off. It also has a lock to prevent accidental overdosing. The setup procedure is relatively straightforward.
Learn more about the Medtime XL in this video from the manufacturer:
- Straightforward setup
- Automated dispensing of even complex medication schedules
- It is easy to use
- It has several test functions for determining whether it is working properly
- Several different alarm sounds are available.
- The locked dispenser and/or the alarm may agitate a person with dementia
- Dispensing might be automatic, but there’s no guarantee that the medication will be taken
Buying Guide: What to Look for When Buying a Pill Dispenser
Here are some of the things you should look for when buying a medication dispenser:
The dispenser’s capacity is one of the top considerations. Do you need to take a pill a day, every week or do you have to take several pills throughout the day? If you take multiple doses throughout the day, it can be a good idea to choose a dispenser with sufficient compartments for storing all your medication.
The alarm on the medication dispenser is another important consideration when making your purchase. Some dispensers have the option of both visual and audible alerts while others have just one type of alarm. The alarm on the device you choose should be loud enough and recognizable too so that the user can easily hear it.
Pill dispensers can be either battery-powered, electrically powered or they may use a combination of both. It is generally preferable to have a one that’s powered by two power sources compared to one that’s solely electrically powered since the device can run off batteries in case of a power outage and will still function properly.
You should also consider if the device requires a phone line or not. If it does need connected to a phone line, this might limit your placement choices.
Pill dispensers sometimes feature a locking mechanism whereby access to the dispenser is restricted outside the prescribed times. Lockability is an important feature since it increases user safety by preventing them from taking the wrong medication or even overdosing. A lockable device is recommended for those that may get confused easily such as those with cognitive impairments.
A portable battery-operated model is ideal for those that require a medication dispenser that they can easily carry with them when they travel. Such pill dispensers are usually lightweight and small enough to fit in a bag and can allow you to take vital medication even when you are not at home. If you are simply looking for a dispenser to use at home, you should opt for a larger model that will almost always have more features.
Frequently Asked Questions/FAQs:
How can I remember to take my medication?
You can have a caregiver or a loved one remind you to take your medicine. You can also keep it visible. You can always set an alarm to remind you when to take the medicine. Alternatively, you can invest in a pill dispenser that has an alarm to remind you when you need to take your medication and keeps it visible.
Do automated dispensing machines improve patient safety?
Automated dispensing machines can enhance the efficiency of medication distribution and increase patient safety by providing a good balance of accessibility, security, as well as inventory control.
Does Medicare pay for pill dispensers?
Medicare does not pay for electronic pill dispensers by any name. Medicaid, however, may pay for the cost in some states, but this is something you have to check in your state’s regulations.
What is the best automatic pill dispenser for seniors?
The best pill dispensers have a dual alarm system (visual and audible), a dual power system (mains and battery), dispenses medications at least 4 times a day, and has a large enough storage capacity.
Summary and Final Recommendations
Pill dispensers play an indispensable role in your life by making sure that you take the right medication, in the right dose, and at the right time. The best pill dispenser is one that’s reasonably priced, has a decent capacity, has a dual alarm system, a dual power system, and dispenses medication at least 4 times a day.