Back in January 2014 I was at a meetup of Baby Boomer Makers at TechShop in San Carlos, California. We were going around the table, each taking a turn to talk about projects we'd like to do. Bob spoke up to describe a problem his elderly mother was having - she couldn't remember to take her medicines on time every day. Each week Bob found that his mother had either forgotten to take her pills one day, or she had run out too soon because she had double-dosed. Both these problems are frightening. Bob is a retired electrical engineer and said to the group, "I have an idea for a device to help elderly people keep on their medicine schedule. I can make the electronics, but I don't have a way to make a case for the project."
His story really resonated with me. I've been a member of TechShop for several years and have learned to use a number of the sophisticated computer controlled fabrication machines that they have for members to use. I looked at Bob. "I can do that. If you make two sets of electronics, I'll make two cases and we can trade." Smiling at each other we started a great collaboration.
Six months and many prototypes later, the Pill Reminder was born. Bob set up his mother with one of the first units. Each week after that he checked and found that his mother was taking her pills twice a day as she should! There were no more cases of double-dosing or forgetting to take them. She was 100% compliant! It's now been two months and his mother continues to take her pills as she should. Bob and I are very pleased.
We decided early on to share our final designs with the world using one of the Creative Commons licenses. And now we want to share the Pill Reminder with the world through this Instructable.
We have detailed plans and assembly instructions and the Arduino source code available on the web at
And the complete package of instructions and software is included in the last step of this Instructable.
In this Instructable I will highlight some of the build process so that you have a good idea of what needs to be done.
Let's get started!
p.s. Since we created the pill reminder I have also done an investigation of pill reminder apps for smart phones. I evaluated a number of them and came up with one that I feel is the best. You can read my analysis of the best pill reminder app. The article also explains the criteria I used to evaluate the apps.
The Pill Reminder is an Arduino controlled device to prompt a person when it is time to take their pills. The Pill Reminder has 14 pill compartments. Each compartment corresponds to one day of the week. Each day of the week has two compartments, one for morning pills and one for evening pills. Each pill compartment has an LED above it. Twice each day, morning and evening, the Pill Reminder will turn on the appropriate LED to indicate which pill compartment should be taken.
The Pill Reminder has a real time clock to keep track of the day and time.
It also has a proximity sensor. During each pill taking interval, the first time a person approaches the Pill Reminder it will cause the currently illuminated LED to blink. We hope this attracts the user's attention.
The Pill Reminder is intended to be used by someone who has trouble remembering to take their pills each day. We intend for someone else to fill the pill compartments each week. To make this easier the pill compartments are on trays that can be removed. This allows the care giver to have a second set of pill compartments that they fill up and then can quickly replace the empty ones.
Released under a Creative Commons license, you are free to make one yourself.