By: Editorial Team | Posted: November 14, 2019 | Updated: April 7, 2023
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There are many, many pill boxes and pill organizer solutions to choose from in your local drugstore or on Amazon. Unsurprisingly, not all of them are equally good.
The Longevity Explorers have strong views about what to look for in a pill box. Here are their recommendations, and a list of the “things to watch for”.
We hope this will help you decide on the “best pill organizer for you“.
About the Longevity Explorer Pill Organizer Choices
When our community of older adults (the Longevity Explorers) shared their perspectives on medication management, a major feature of everyone’s approach to keeping on top of their pills and medicines was some type of pill organizer. Each time one of our explorers brought along a pill box and commented positively about it, we sought it out and added it to our “collection” for subsequent show and tell interactions.
The pill organizers discussed by these groups of older adults (typically in their 70’s and 80’s) are all relatively simple. In contrast, healthcare companies and clinicians tend to be interested in a much more complex family of products, with features like locking compartments, automatic dispensing, and automated reminders. It was striking that, at least for these groups of older adults, such products were seen as complete overkill, and suitable only “for someone else”!
There were surprisingly divergent opinions on which pill organizer people preferred. As with many of the other product categories we have explored, it seems that different life situations and different persona types lead to a different answer to “which is the best pill organizer for me?”
In this article we highlight the pill boxes that were most popular among our Longevity Explorers, for specific use cases. There may well be similar examples we did not uncover, but these should help point you in the right direction.
Different Pill Organizers for Different Personas
“Well” Older Adults
Most of our Longevity Explorers are what you might describe as “well” older adults. While many take multiple medications each day, most of them are relatively physically fit, fairly mobile, and cognitively on-the-ball.
For people like our explorers, “keeping it simple” is a good mantra for medication management. Most of our explorers favor pill organizer solutions that fall into a category we describe as “Simple Pill Boxes“. And if they want help remembering when to take their pills, they pair that “Simple Pill Box” with some type of “Reminder System“. You can find their recommendations for specific products in these categories further down the page.
Significant Physical Impairments
Some older adults develop significant physical impairments, in areas like mobility, or vision, or hearing. For some of these people, the Simple Pill Boxes are still fine. But others may benefit from specific additional “features”.
For example, people with imperfect hearing may benefit from louder alarm reminders, or a flashing light reminder, or a reminder in the form of a wearable that vibrates. People with visual impairments may want labels on the Pill Boxes that include Braille. Or a system that automatically dispenses a pill without you needing to open a specific compartment.
In the recommendations below, our explorers have identified products that include some of these features. In cases of significant physical impairment, you probably need something more complex than we are covering in this article. See “Beyond the Simple Pill Box” near the bottom of the page.
In cases where mild forgetfulness turns into more significant cognitive impairment, medication management can be especially challenging. In this case, Simple Pill Boxes are most likely insufficient. See “Beyond the Simple Pill Box” at the bottom of the page.
Specific features that relate to cognitive impairment include:
- some type of “locking” feature to prevent a person taking the wrong medication at the wrong time;
- some type of reminder system;
- communication with a caregiver via an App, or other interface, so that the caregiver can keep an eye on whether or not the right medications are being taken.
Simple Pill Box and Pill Organizer Recommendations
Here are the things our Longevity Explorers think are important — when it comes to simple pill boxes and pill organizers — together with some specific product recommendations.
The Basic Pill Box: What to Look For.
There are many basic pill boxes to be found. Many are adequate, although some are better than others.
Some key features to watch out for when you are choosing are as follow.
- Can you read the labels (most have a label for each day, and if the print is too small it is inconvenient)?
- Do the little compartments close securely, or are they going to pop open when you pick up the pill box — and deposit all your week’s pills on the floor?
- Can you open the little compartments fairly easily, especially if you have arthritis or shaky hands?
- Are the compartments big enough to take all your pills (if you have a lot of pills, this can be an issue)?
Basic Pill Box Recommendation. Good for Travel Too.
This basic pill box is one which most of our explorers felt performed adequately in all the above areas. In addition, this pill box has the useful feature that you can take out the individual day’s container and take it with you (for travel).
Visibility: Labels are in large, high contrast print. Easy to read. But not in Braille.
Size: It’s modest in size with two compartments per day. If you have a lot of pills you may need something larger, but the relatively modest size is a plus in the eyes of explorers with modest amounts of pills — who don’t want something big and cumbersome.
Compartment Functionality: The closure and opening of the compartments was fairly easy, but seemed not so easy as to be likely to come open by accident. Overall a decent compromise. But if you have bad arthritis, the choice below would be better.
Travel: The fact you can pull out each day’s “compartment” and take it with you is a plus.
Good Pill Organizer for Arthritis Sufferers
This product was extremely popular among explorers with arthritis, as it has buttons you push to open the lids of the compartment — which are easier for arthritic fingers than many similar products which you have to pry open.
There may well be other similar products. Look for the “button” approach to opening the lid.
Visibility: Labels are in large, reasonable contrast print. Fairly easy to read (lower contrast than the basic Pill Box recommendation above). But not in Braille.
Size: It’s quite large in size with two compartments per day. Significantly larger compartments than the basic pill box above.
Compartment Functionality: The closure and opening of the compartments was extremely easy, with a nice solid “closure” click.
Travel: You have to take the entire pill box with you, and since it is quite large this is not ideal.
Good Pill Case for that “Have to Have It” Pill
Some explorers loved these metal pill canisters, although some thought they looked ugly.
One of our explorers explained that one of these is the perfect container for a nitroglycerine pill she wants to have on her person at all times.
She just keeps one of these containers on her key ring.
Good Travel Pill Organizer
It became clear that our explorers liked very different products to help manage medication when they were travelling, compared to those they wanted to use at home.
Several of our more active explorers especially liked this handy travel pouch. They liked its slim form factor. Although some other explorers commented that the pills were not protected from crushing by this product.
- We found this pill pouch for travel on the website: TravelSmith.*
The Electronic Pill Box
A lot of companies have decided it would be a good idea to add some electronics to the basic pillbox concept.
In its simplest form, an “Electronic pillbox” is basically a plastic pillbox, like those above, with some type of alarm clock attached or integrated into it. In more complex embodiments, these electronic medication management systems include lots of additional features, with some even including some basic levels of artificial intelligence.
In this article we are limiting ourselves to the simpler products, but we will look at the more complex ones when we evaluate “Pill Dispensers & Smart Pill Boxes” in more depth in the future.
Pill Organizer with Alarm
Our explorers were mostly unenthusiastic about the idea of including an alarm into the basic pillbox. Instead, our explorers liked the idea of a separate stand alone reminder system, either in the form of an App, or in the form of a sort of “alarm clock” (see below).
However, there was one pill box with alarm that several of the explorers singled out as being noteworthy (in a good way): the “Turtle Weekly Pill Box“.
Turtle Pill Box with Alarm
Here are the things they liked about this product (the Turtle Pill Box with Reminders):
- It’s a nice oval shape, and less “clinical” looking than the typical square pill box.
- The alarm / reminder is a little simpler to use than some of the competitors.
- The compartments are rather large, so lots of room for many pills.
- The lid has Braille as well as writing to identify the days. (But the actual writing is very low contrast and hard to read).
- View Turtle Pill Box with Alarm on Amazon*
Another option to consider if you like the idea of an integrated pill box with alarms is the Med-Q Pillbox (link goes to our listing database and some more comments from our explorers).
Pill Boxes with Alarms: Too Complex.Insufficiently Sophisticated?
And the Pill Boxes with Alarms that we evaluated typically had alarms and clocks that were rather complicated to set up; batteries that were likely to need changing; lots of confusing buttons; and were heavier than pill boxes that lacked the electronics.
The explorers commented that the idea of an alarm integrated into the pillbox rather assumed you would always be near to the pill box — which often was not the case.
In many ways these “pill organizers with alarms” occupy a middle ground. They are more complex than the simple basic pill boxes, but with only modest extra functionality. There are certainly much more complex medication management systems (automatic pill dispensers for example), but while more complex, they also have many more features.
So while the complex medication management systems that dispense pills for you, and notify caregivers, have a definite role for people with physical or mental imperfections, our explorers were generally lukewarm about these simple “pill boxes with alarms”.
Instead, our explorers liked the idea of a separate stand alone reminder system — either in the form of an App, or in the form of a sort of “alarm clock” (see below).
Separate Reminder System
Here are some alternatives to having the alarm / reminder integrated into the pill box.
Medication Reminder Apps
Many of our explorers like the idea of using some type of medication reminder App on their smart phone to remind them when it is time to take their medication. And those who wear a smartwatch like the idea of a gentle vibration on their wrist rather than an intrusive loud beeping as a way of reminding them. We have covered Pill Reminder Apps in some prior research:
Separate “Reminder Alarm”
For those not keen on Apps, or who don’t have smartphones, a popular reminder option was this stand alone alarm clock made by MedCenter. Some of the things the explorers liked about this reminder clock were:
- It is very loud.
- It talks to you rather than just beeping.
- It is pretty easy to program (much more so than most of the competing products).
- It has very large buttons, with large easily legible writing.
- It tells you the day and time, and when your next dose is due, as well as reminding you to take the current dose.
- BUT, some explorers felt it sends the message “I am old and frail” to people who see it in your house.
- View the MedCenter Reminder Alarm on Amazon*
Beyond the Simple Pill Box.
For people who need specific features that go beyond the “Simple Pill Box”, there is a category of more sophisticated and more expensive products that we call “Automatic Pill Dispensers & Smart Pill Boxes” that incorporate a variety of features to accomodate a variety of physical and mental impairments.
While many people are happy with the simple pill boxes you see on this page, Automatic pill dispensers can help when a person has trouble adhering to their medication regimen, or when filling pill boxes with complex combinations of pills becomes a burden. Learn which products are best for various personas, life situations, and physical and cognitive conditions in the article below.
More on Managing Medication from Tech-enhanced Life
- Visit the Medication Management Topic Hub for all our coverage on medication management.
- If you want more discussion of what factors might make you choose one type of medication management solution over another — as well as a survey of the full range of types of medication management systems — the place to start is with this article entitled “Medication Management Systems: Which?“
- Listen to the actual discussions by the explorers about these products, and medication management in general: “Medication Management: Older Adult Perspectives“.
*Disclosure: The research and opinions in this article are those of the author, and may or may not reflect the official views of Tech-enhanced Life.
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