This is really two blog entries in one. It is a review of a new pill dispenser called E-Pill, designed by a Parkinson's patient to help keep us all on track with our meds. First, however, I thought it would be helpful to have a little history on this subject. If you want to jump directly to the second part, go ahead. I promise I won't be offended. (But just think of what you could have learned)
Everyone knows the best way to treat Parkinson's is to actually take your medication on time. This is easier said than done. Ever since the first physicians wrote prescriptions for carbidopa/levodopa in cunieform, they have tried to find creative ways to make sure their patients remember to take their pills. At the same time, patients were working on another development: the excuse for not taking their pills.
The earliest known method involved timing each dose with the length of time it took for an oil lamp to burn. This wasn't totally reliable.
Doctor – So, Esther, how's the shakes? (This was in biblical times before Dr. James Parkinson was born.)
Esther – Not so good, doc. I'm shaking so hard I almost burnt the house down trying to light the Sabbath candles.
Doctor – Are you taking your medication whenever your lamp runs out of oil, like I told you to?
Esther – I tried. The lamp ran out three days ago and I'm shaking so hard I can't light it again.
Next, they tried an hour glass.
Doctor – Thomas, you don't look so good. Are you using the hour glass Brother Luitprand sold you to tell you when to take your pills?
Thomas – I tried, but the sand ran out while I was out on my boat.
Doctor – But Thomas, this is portable. You should have had it with you.
Thomas – I know, but my wife was using it to time her baked chicken.
In the middle ages it was popular to time medications with the ringing of the church bells for the monastic hours. It worked fairly well until the time of the great plague. Then the funeral bells rang all day and no one ever knew what time it was and didn't care, anyway.
The pill organizer was invented by a distant ancestor, Zerviah Meletivea Myers, whose husband, Bill, was always forgetting to take his Sinemet. She thought it would be helpful it he had a way to carry the pills with him. She even made it pretty with an embroidered insert in the lid. Bill thought it looked frilly and hid it in the bottom desk drawer with the last years' seed packets. He told his wife it had been stolen.
The most effective method of reminding patients to take their medication was called, The Spouse. It involved enlisting the husband or wife of the patient to confine their conversation to these few words, “Have you taken your pills yet?” This only worked if the patient had a spouse and even then, the spouse was at risk of if he/she “asked one more time”. In worst case scenarios, the effects could require prompt medical attention or a divorce lawyer.
Of course the spouse was at risk either way. When the patient forgot to take his/her pills, the spouse endured the consequences of their freezing, shaking, rigidity, and needing a piggy back ride home from the fields.
Fortunately, in our modern times we have developed ways to make sure we never forget to take our medication.