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often, and toss any medications that are out-of-date or no longer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
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
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