Managing Medications: Step 1 – Taking Stock

by Mary S on March 12, 2012

At NightingaleRx we’re collecting tips and tricks for managing multiple medications and making the tips available in an eBook.  I’d also like to share some of that information with blog readers since I think it’s really helpful and sharing is a good thing, right?  So here’s the first step we recommend for getting started managing multiple medications.

Step 1: Take an Inventory

When dealing with a new situation, it’s helpful to get a sense of the complete landscape.  This is the inventory process.  You need to see the situation for yourself, so do this next time you visit in person.  Clear some space on the dining room table, and gather the pill bottles there.

Make sure you gather all of the pill bottles.  Be sure to check bathroom drawers, nightstand, refrigerator, cupboards, vanity, and the kitchen table.  Don’t stop with just prescription drugs.  Be sure to gather vitamins, over-the-counter meds, and consumable medical supplies, too.

Now you’re ready to write it all down.  This took me a while, because I had no guide to follow.  So, I want to make it easier for you.   Here is a pill inventory template that I developed through trial and error.  I made it so you won’t overlook anything.   At the minimum, make sure you write down the name of each medication, prescribing doctor, dosage instructions, and reason for taking it.  If you have time, you can fill in the other things.   Don’t let a missing piece of information block you – move on.  Do the best you can and come back to fill in the gaps later if necessary.

In this process I encountered a lot of medical terms that were like Greek to me.  Actually, I found out that they were Latin!  So, here’s a list of common abbreviations used in prescriptions, and how they got from their Latin root words to abbreviations.

As part of your inventory, you may find that some pills are about to run out.  Make note of those and be sure to re-order them if needed.  Eventually, you will want to review the sourcing and pricing of all of these medications.  That can be a big undertaking so we’ll address that later.  First things first.

Depending on the number of medications you are sorting through, this initial inventory can take a few hours.  Watch for signs of fatigue in your patients and take a break when necessary.  If possible, schedule the inventory for a time when your patient has the most energy.  For my mom, and probably for most of the elderly, this is first thing in the morning.

Once completed, make at least two copies of the inventory.  Leave one with your mom.  Keep a separate copy for yourself.  If there are other interested family members, share a copy with them.


  • Do this step with your parent and make sure she is involved.  By doing this together you’ll get a real sense of what help she will accept and what areas you might need to approach lightly.
  • If you find loose or unidentified pills, check an online pill identifier like

If you have something found something helpful in your own journey you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below.

Until next time,

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