The Amazing Medicine Machine


  By Pat King, Wesley Homes Des Moines resident Time to take your medicine…time to take your medicine…time to take your medicine. For Gladys Arneson, the repetitive, automated voice is not an annoyance but a godsend. Sitting on her living room table at Wesley Homes Des Moines is the Philips Lifeline Medication Dispensing Service, a remarkable circular machine about 14 inches in height that makes this announcement and flashes lights. When Gladys hears the voice, she pushes a button. A plastic cup with the exact medicine she needs comes sliding down a chute. The meds slide down at predetermined times. If Gladys wonders if she forgot to take her medication, she checks the lighted panel on the machine. It will tell her the time and date and how soon to expect the next plastic cup. At first, Gladys didn’t want help with her pills. She knew she could remember to take her medication, but Ann Aarhus realized that Gladys was not taking her medications correctly. As a registered nurse for Wesley Homes Home Health, Ann knows it’s not easy to remember when and how much medication to take, especially when more than one prescription is involved each day. Gladys’ daughter, Mary Gibson, saw the machine in a brochure provided by Wesley Homes Home Health and thought it would be perfect for her mother. Ann agreed and ordered it. The machine has taken away the guesswork. Loading the device with the proper doses is done by Arthur Arneson, Gladys’ son. Every week, he opens the machine and uses a set-up board to refill the plastic cups with the exact dosage his mother needs. Then he places each cup back in the machine as the automated-voice instructs. A computer chip runs the program. What happens if Gladys is away from her apartment in The Terrace or is distracted and doesn’t hear the machine? After an hour, the dispenser will dial three pre-determined phone numbers to alert someone (family members, Wesley Homes Home Health, friends, etc.) that Gladys has not taken her medications. The computer will dial each of the phone numbers until it finds someone to take the message. If the power goes out in the building, the battery will kick in for 18 hours. For Gladys, this means no more missed medicine or complications from incorrect medication use; no more doubting if she took her pills, and no more questioning if she might have doubled up. Maybe we all need such a machine! The cost for this convenient, streamlined service for Gladys is just $100 a month. She gets to live independently at home with a much reduced risk of an unplanned hospital or doctor visit. Plus, Gladys’ family has confidence and peace of mind.