Health Department: Talking Devices May Improve Your Safety When Taking Pills

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City Updates | General | Health Department |

Talking Devices May Improve Your Safety When Taking Pills

By Jean Kalscheur, Vision Rehabilitation Teacher
Wisconsin Council of the Blind &Visually Impaired

About 37% of Americans aged 60 and over use five or more prescription drugs, not including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements.  Managing medications can be a challenge when you have low vision.

Safety and accuracy when taking pills can be improved once you learn some helpful strategies.  These range from identifying pills by color, size and shape, to using contrast color surfaces that make it easier to see pills, to setting alarms on a phone as reminders to take your medications.  Many strategies have been detailed in “Take Your Pills, Safely,” a booklet available from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired.  You can obtain a copy by calling 1-800-783-5213.

This article will describe audio devices that may improve pill-taking safety for people who have difficulty seeing written information.

You can gain confidence in managing your medications by learning about them.  This may require that you inform staff at your doctor’s office and the pharmacy that you cannot read print easily.  Insist that information be read aloud and fully explained.  Ask questions.  Be sure to understand why, how and when you are to take a pill or use an ointment.

Some pharmacies can package medications for easier use by a person with visual impairment.  Examples include filling a weekly pill box, providing large print instructions, or putting pills in blister/ bubble packaging.  These services may come with an additional cost.

Audio devices are helpful when you can’t see to read.  They can provide information about dosage, side effects and special instructions.  Several national pharmacies, including Wal-Mart and CVS, and some independent pharmacies use an audio prescription label called ScripTalk™.  The pharmacy uses software to input audio information onto a smart label placed in the prescription container.  As a customer, you need to have a ScripTalk™ Reader at home.  When the prescription container is placed on the Reader, the recorded information is heard.

If the pharmacy doesn’t use audio labeling, you can find talking devices and record your own information.  Talking Rx® is one example of a digital memo recorder in which a pill bottle sits.  Pressing a button on the base starts the recording.  You can record up to 60 seconds of information.

Information can also be recorded onto a re-usable self-adhesive voice label that can be attached to a wide variety of items, including medicine containers.  When the player/pen touches the voice label, the recorded information is played.  An example of this adaptive device is PenFriend.

If you have low vision and need strategies to improve safety and accuracy when taking pills, a vision rehabilitation specialist can guide you in finding options.  To locate the vision rehabilitation specialist in your county, contact the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired at 1-888-879-0017.