Life Care Consulting by Barbara Hance - Financial and Personal Management Service for the Elderly, Frail and the Busy
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Keep Good Records for Day to Day Management

Some caregivers keep better records on their cars than on their day-to-day care of an elderly relative or friend. What happens when an elder passes out and must be taken by ambulance to the hospital? Questions about allergies, medications - how much, how often and at what dosage - history of fainting. etc., need answers. Yet, too often, caregivers just don't have the information.

Those answers are probably at home, on note pads or on scraps of paper in a kitchen drawer, but an emergency situation calls for immediate information.

Caregivers often cannot even answer pertinent questions at the doctor's office. Valuable time can be lost and critical care may be delayed.

What's the best way to keep current medical records? What kind of information should be close at hand?

Caregivers should keep details on allergies to food and/or medications. They should have an up-to-date listing of all prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter preparations, vitamins and supplements, including the dosage and frequency. Medications can change often so the list needs to be reviewed frequently. Check the medicine cabinet often, and toss any medications that are out-of-date or no longer being used. Remember, our elders are notorious savers (what we refer to as the "P" savers: pencils, pens, pills, plastic, paper, pots, etc.).

Keep track of hospitalizations, including brief emergency room visits. Even though the hospital has these records, having information on hand for quick reference is important, especially if the emergency arises in the early morning or late night hours.

Caregivers should keep a list of any surgeries, procedures and tests performed on elders. Note any complications or medications that were administered.

Make a note of any diseases, even though they may not require medication.

For the elder who is a drug abuser or alcoholic, or has anemia, asthma, hypoglycemia, heart pacemakers, etc.. this information is critical and can have a major impact on medical treatment.

Whatever the age of the patient, information on family history can be vital. Keep track of any genetic conditions, diseases, injuries and blood type. This information can be important to the medical provider. If you formally record it, it can be made part of each physician's file.

Don't forget about regular preventive care. This includes mammograms, Pap smears, rectal exams, flu and pneumonia vaccines, PSA tests, etc. The dates of all tests and inoculations should be recorded.

Keep copies of all pertinent documents. including wills, living wills, powers of attorney, Medicare and HMO insurance information and Social Security card handy in case of a crisis.

In addition, don't forget about emergency telephone numbers, the names and numbers of all healthcare providers and the hospital which is preferred or accepted by your insurance carrier. Keep a list and review it periodically.

We record a lot of this information on an "In Case of Emergency" magnet which is placed on each of our client's refrigerators, and inside each egress door. If an emergency occurs and an ambulance is called, the EMTs have immediate medical information and can pass it on to the hospital if necessary.

Older people who live in assisted living facilities should also keep up-to-date records readily available in the event of an emergency.

Remember, when something happens, inaccurate or incomplete information could mean the difference between life and death. Start the New Year off right. Update the records of your elderly relatives. Do the same for yourself. It could be very important.

Barbara H. Hance. President of Barbara H. Hance Associate, is an eldercare and lifecare consultant in Farmington.

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