DETROIT — Eighty-eight-year-old Stella Mazur took eight medications a day for conditions that ranged from high blood pressure to seizures, but she was frustrated because she couldn’t keep all of her pills straight.
“My mother would get confused when she tried to set up her pills for the week,” said Kathi Sitek, 58, of Macomb Township, Mich., who was the sole caregiver for her mother. Mazur lived on her own and was fiercely independent.
Sitek wanted to make a simple visual display of her mother’s pills to make it easier for her to manage her medications without help. Gary Sitek, Kathi’s husband, helped make it, taping a sample of each pill to one side of a small piece of cardboard. They labeled the pills on the other side, listing the medication’s name, the dosage and the usage.
The Siteks called it the Pill Pouch, and that piece of cardboard would become the prototype for a product the family now produces and sells at community pharmacies across Michigan and Ohio.
“We made it out of necessity,” Kathi Sitek said.
The Siteks aren’t alone in the struggle to help a loved one manage their medications. It is crucial for patients, especially seniors, to find some kind of system that ensures they take their medicine, said James Cameron, a health coach at the Henry Ford Health System.
“One out of 10 admissions for seniors admitted to hospitals is related to medication issues,” Cameron said.
One of the least expensive ways to organize medication is with a pill box. There are several types, including some that can detach to make it easy to carry around that day’s medications.
Mazur took her prototype Pill Pouch with her to doctor visits, to the pharmacy and carried it in case of an emergency.
She used the Pill Pouch for about two years until she died of heart failure in 2007 at the age of 90. Several doctors looked at the cardboard Pill Pouch and said, “Boy, you should patent that.”
When she died, Mazur left Kathi Sitek about $30,000 in inheritance, which she used to start a company that makes the Pill Pouch.
“I know it helps people,” Kathi Sitek said. “I’m real passionate about it because I think it’s a good thing.”
A patent for the Pill Pouch is pending, but the product is already in community pharmacies across Michigan. It also sells for $9.99 online at www.pillpouch.net and is manufactured in Troy, Mich. The printing for the packaging is done in Madison Heights, Mich. It is packaged and shipped from Kathi Sitek’s basement in Macomb Township.
“It’s really taking off,” Kathi Sitek said.
When it comes to finding a solution for managing medications, Cameron said the options are plentiful.
“I would start out with a pill box,” Cameron said. “They have daily pill boxes, weekly, monthly. Those are very good if the senior can keep track of time and remember to take all those pills. Those are very simple solutions.”
He also suggested using alarms. “If people have a hard time keeping track of time, is there some kind of an alarm they can set up to know when to take their pills?” Cameron said. “Or can they have a caregiver or loved one give them a call?”
The entire Sitek family now works on the product invented to help Mazur with her medications.
Kathi and Gary Sitek’s son, Matt Sitek, 32, is working on a free mobile app that will help organize pills. It is expected to be available later this month on the company website.
The original prototype Mazur used was cardboard, measured about 4 inches by 6 inches and held eight pills. The current product is 5 inches by 7 inches when closed, handles up to eight pills and is made of vinyl.
Now, the Sitek family is working on a tri-fold version of the Pill Pouch that can hold up to 16 pills as well as a tri-fold for men about the size of a wallet that would fit in a back pants pocket.