Medication strategies for people with visual impairments

 

Reading medication instructions and being able to clearly see and interpret labels is essential. For people with visual impairments, sometimes all that is needed are some changes to printed text or cues, and reminders that rely on other senses to communicate information.

There are some technology-free interventions that may serve as a helpful starting point.

•    Change reading materials: For labels and important medication information, a font of at least 16 points can help with clarity and readability. Use braille labels and reading materials if needed.

•    Adapt visual cues: You can use a large black marker to note a.m./p.m. on a bottle or write a number for how often a medicine should be taken. You could also use rubber bands or raised stickers. For example, wrap a rubber band three times around the bottle, or add three epoxy stickers to represent taking the medicine three times a day. Color-coded prescription bottles can be a helpful reminder: blue bottles for nighttime and red bottles for the morning.

•    Magnification, lighting, and different labels: Asking for a different label that’s easier to read, has less glare, or is printed with better contrast may help. In some instances, a magnifier or special lighting can make reading easier.

Auditory interventions make it easier to manage medications with limited (or no) reliance on vision.

•    Talking devices: Some medical devices such as glucose meters and insulin injectors are available in a version that uses audio instructions to communicate with the patient.

•    Alarms and reminders: Sound-based alarms and reminders can be helpful for keeping track of medication use and remembering when to take the next dose.

•    Medication education device: Audio devices are available that communicate important drug information and instructions to patients.

Routine changes and organizational systems may also be helpful:

•    Timer caps for your pill bottles can help you remember when to take your medications and which prescriptions to take.

•    Taking medications at the same time every day helps you associate your medicines with the right times to take them.

•    Link medications to specific daily routines such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or preparing for bed.

•    Use a spice rack or shelf to organize different bottles of pills and other medications. Different shelves or compartments could be for a different time of day, for instance.

•    Enlist a friend or family member to help you start your new routine or stay organized. Or ask your doctor to recommend caregiving options to help you.

Medication information can be presented differently for patients with visual impairments and your healthcare team should be able to get accommodations for you if you ask. You can also ask your pharmacist for suggestions and helpful hints.