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Successful caring for seniors requires good organization.
Caring for your health as a senior can be challenging. After spending the past decade helping seniors recover in their homes, I have seen first hand the challenges they face with self care: managing medications, remembering instructions, and keeping health paperwork organized, to name a few. It is not uncommon for a senior to have difficulty mixing up or taking an incorrect dose of medication, which can lead to illness or hospitalization. As caregivers, it is important for us to provide support and education to help our clients stay organized and safe.
Medical paperwork to organize when you are a caregiver:
1. Medication List (click here for a freebie). Be sure to include over the counter, natural supplements, and all medications (pills, monthly injections, everything!) Have a space for allergies and medications that had negative responses, so they are not accidentally retried (It actually happens frequently). Document reactions on the medication list, keep the list updated and handy. Take it with you every time you see a physician!
Check this link for a medication organizer– one of the most important important safety tools you can have!
2. Medical History. Have dates and diagnosis for all hospitalizations, surgeries, and significant illnesses. It would be helpful to include any major family (parents or siblings) illnesses that could be inherited (cancer, RA, etc), dates of routine screenings, and vaccinations.
3. Family, medical and emergency phone numbers. You may have them in your cell phone, but the day you are off will be the day something goes wrong! Have a complete list available for easy access and greater safety. Medical supply, pharmacy, physicians, specialists, equipment, poison control, insurance, etc.
Find these at Etsy.com
4. Physician appointments and annual/recommended testing (regular visits and procedures that are recommended for age and medical history). You could use an annual calendar to mark probable visits and tests. Don’t forget vision, hearing, dental screenings, podiatrists, and appointments to update any medical equipment they have. (My father always said he retired to be a full time patient:))
5. Exercise pictures, health care recommendations, and safety instructions should be organized and easy to access. Reminders to use the walker, drink water, safety tips, etc. are all important and contribute to safety. Especially if there has been a recent hospitalization, it is imperative to have all new instructions from your health care team organized and in reach!
Personal paperwork to organize when you are a caregiver:
6. Financial spending on health care, home safety and medical items. Keeping a well documented record of expenses could provide peace between family members, and also may be helpful for tax purposes. Tax guidelines change frequently, but often medical equipment and supplies, as well as home improvements for medical safety can be included!
7. A living will . This is the documentation that tells your physician and family what type of medical care you want to receive if you are unable to respond. A copy should be in your home, and in your primary physician records.
8. A power of attorney- medical and financial. This should be kept in your home. You should also have a copy of your medical power of attorney with your primary physician (many times it is included in the living will paperwork).
9. A DNR, or “do not resuscitate” order must be signed by a physician and placed in an obvious place in your home, where emergency responders and health care workers can see it. It should also be kept in your medical records with your primary physician.
10. Funeral arrangements should be kept in the home with other documentation. Many people write specific instructions for the body and the service, and they also may prepay. It is a huge assist to the family to know exactly what their loved one wanted, to reduce the stress of possible disagreement, and reduce to amount of work to be done in such a short time of emotional duress. It is a difficult subject to discuss, but can be extremely beneficial to do so.
Being organized will certainly lead to a safer and smoother experience! Here are a few posts regarding home safety to assist with excellent caregiving, as well.
Here is an informative article, with great references on adverse drug events in older adults, from American Family Physicians.
I would love to hear what you think! Do you have any other tips for caregivers or seniors? Subscribe to my blog for a FREEBIE starter packet of printable handouts for healthy living and patient education!