At EWA, we promote a holistic approach to epilepsy treatment, but we also know that if you have to take meds, you need to do it in a way that makes them optimally effective. This article explains how.
Do you want to find simple ways to reduce seizures?
Of course you do. And one of the most effective ways to do that is to consider a more well-rounded and holistic approach. This can encompass diet, exercise, stress reduction, sleep, AND how we manage medication.
While we at EWA are absolutely committed to finding solutions that don’t involve medicine, the fact is that most people with epilepsy are currently only taking meds as part of their approach. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that nearly 70% of people with epilepsy manage their seizures through medication. If you’re in this group, this article is for you.
Even though a majority of people try to control seizures through drugs, they still continue to have seizures. And the main cause of these “breakthrough” seizures is forgetting to take your epilepsy medication.
We want to help you shift how you think about meds so that it’s part of your holistic, mind and body approach. In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why controlling when and how you take your meds is so important
- What to do if you miss a dose
- Advice about meds from experienced patients
- Seven ways to remember to take your epilepsy medication
Why medication management is so important
The whole point of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) is to control any abnormal electrical activity in the brain and prevent seizures.
Even if your epilepsy is well controlled, not taking your medication consistently at the same time(s) each day creates variations in the concentration of the drug in your body. Missing a dose disrupts that very delicate balance of seizure control that the medication aims to achieve.
Your first step is easy: Flip how you think about meds
Taking your meds is more than popping a pill. It’s one weapon in your arsenal to battle epilepsy and take control of your disease. You need to exercise, get plenty of rest, meditate, watch your diet, be social, live your life, talk about your challenges, have fun, take chances, and take your meds like clockwork – as if your life depends on it.
Do all of this purposefully and understand the importance of metering out those pills mindfully as part of your whole-body-and-brain, holistic approach to controlling your disease.
What’s the impact of missing a single dose?
It depends on a number of factors, such as what drug(s) you are prescribed, how often you take them, and your health history.
For example, the risk of a seizure is much greater for a person who takes their medication once a day and misses that dose, as opposed to the risk for a person who takes several doses a day and misses just one.
However, if skipping doses is a frequent occurrence, your danger of having a breakthrough seizure increases tremendously. That’s why it’s important to learn how to minimize your risk using simple techniques that you can employ today.
What to do if you miss a dose of your epilepsy medication
Different medical sources offer different advice for different medications. Some tell you to wait until the next dose. Others say that if certain conditions are met, you should take the missed dose and delay the next one.
It’s confusing because there are so many variables.
The simple answer is that if you realize you missed your medication, you should call your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist and ask what to do next. They are the most qualified sources to tell you how to proceed because they know your medical history.
How to be proactive: Advice about meds from experienced patients
Epilepsy makes you feel vulnerable. Take control by being proactive. Experienced patients understand the big picture. They attest that these small suggestions will reduce your stress and save time if a problem does occur:
- Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist today what to do if you do miss a dose of medication. Better to be prepared now, rather than deal with the problem late at night or on a holiday weekend. Find out what to do and ask questions if you’re not clear. Then communicate the answers to your family and caretakers so that everyone understands your action plan
- Carry a list of your medications and your doctor/pharmacy information with you – and let your family know where to find it. Then, if you do have a seizure or need emergency help, you’ll eliminate any delay in getting accurate information to the medical professionals who are trying to assist you.
7 ways to remember to take your epilepsy medication
People with an excellent track record of taking their medication on time tend to be much healthier. Here are some of the common strategies they use to ensure that take their meds consistently.
1. Set alarms, reminders, or timers
Set up daily reminders that go off at scheduled times. You can set alarms on your work calendar, mobile phone, smartwatch, or smart speakers. But setting reminders isn’t enough.
When an alarm goes off, make sure you stop whatever you’re doing and take your meds there and then. That will get you into a good habit and prevent you from becoming immune to the sound of the reminders.
Again, you’re being mindful of the importance of this routine act and how it impacts your body.
2. Use a medication-reminder app
There are many free medication reminder and medication tracker apps on the App Store or Google Play. Their sole purpose is to help you eliminate the worry of forgetting to take your meds.
All apps aren’t the same, so check out their different features and ratings. If historical data is something your doctors need, look for apps that enable you to quickly track your medications.
3. Flip your pill bottle over after you’ve taken your medication
If memory is an issue, this is a great visual clue to let you know which meds you’ve taken.
Some people with memory issues will gather their pills, but still forget to take them. For that reason, don’t flip the bottle until you’ve actually swallowed the pill.
4. Keep your meds in a pill organizer
An old-fashioned, seven-day pill organizer is another visual reminder of what pills you need to take and what you have already taken each day. This is also helpful if you have memory issues, and your caretakers can take a glance to see whether you’re on track with your medications.
Also, putting your meds in a pill box every seven days sets you up for a full week and eliminates the hassle of messing with numerous medication bottles throughout the day every day.
5. Keep your medications where you can see them
Maybe you’re forgetting to take your pills because they are stored out of sight?
If so, put your medications on your kitchen counter or another location where you spend a lot of time. It’s a noticeable nudge to remind you to take your meds.
6. Tie in taking meds with existing habits
Schedule taking your medication to coincide with routine activities you do daily. For example, your morning routine might be to get out of bed, brush your teeth, and get dressed. If you add taking your pills to that list, you’re piggybacking on an existing habit.
Grouping activities together will increase your ability to remember to take your morning meds.
Similarly, find other activities that you do consistently at other times of the day, and merge taking your pills into those pre-existing routines.
7. Set up automatic refills on your prescriptions
Arrange auto refills through your pharmacy or mail-order pharmacy. That way, you’ll never run out of your medication, and you’ll eliminate any anxiety about not having enough meds on hand. If you feel you’re cutting it too close, talk to your pharmacist.
Remember, the more routines you adopt and use, the more likely you’ll develop an effective medication routine for epilepsy. That translates to better health, fewer seizures, and more stability in your life.
Forgetting to take your medication is the #1 trigger for breakthrough seizures and one of the major challenges of living with epilepsy. But this is one challenge where you have control.
Medication is currently an important part of your holistic approach to your personal epilepsy management.
Really think about the impact of taking epilepsy medication. It’s not just a pill. You’re tired of breakthrough seizures. YOU CAN AVOID THEM if you optimize how you take your meds. And you do that by taking them at the right time. Every day.
Maybe one day you can embrace a non-pharma alternative. But for now, you need to get rest, get exercise, get emotional support, and take your meds like clockwork.
Here’s how you’ll benefit from sticking to a structured medication routine:
- Prevent avoidable seizures
- Ease your anxiety and fear
- Reduce unnecessary healthcare costs
- Shift your focus back to your life and away from epilepsy
And here’s a quick checklist of action items to tackle right now:
- Create a wallet-sized list of your meds and pharmacy/physician contact information
- Call your doc or pharmacy to ask what to do if you miss a dose of medication
- Implement one or two of the seven strategies to remember to take your meds
- Schedule time next week to integrate more strategies into your daily routine
Do you have other tricks and tips that help you remember to take your epilepsy medication? If so, share them below.