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How to Get Organized for Health Care

Somehow “Things to Do” lists and scraps of paper with notes on them, elude me. They run off somewhere just like the socks in the dryer—at least one sock. So, I've learned that the best way to get control of these runaway notes is to contain them. You'll find that if you get involved in your parent's medical care, the notes will pile up quickly. And so will the forms, insurance papers, and information on each condition affecting your parents. So get a handle on this early and buy an expandable file that can hold about 10 folders. Here's how I'd go about organizing them:

  • Insurance papers: copies of contacts, ID numbers.
  • Each physician: Place the name and phone number of each doctor on the outside of a folder. Keep notes of your conversations and any material given by physician.
  • Medications list and any material about the medications such as copies of drug package inserts and any materials the pharmacist gave with the medication.
  • Copies of your parents' living wills and their health care power of attorney.
  • Background material on each condition (a diabetic folder, high blood pressure, and so on).
  • Master contact list: Make one master list that you can work from that includes names and phone numbers of your parents' physicians, home health care workers, insurance companies, pharmacist, hospital social worker, area agency on aging, neighbors, and any community agency or group (home-delivered meals, for example) that interacts your parents. List Medicare, Social Security, and insurance ID numbers.
  • Copies of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cards and any insurance cards that your parent has to present at doctors' offices.
  • Home health care and community services names and phone numbers and brochures describing their services.
  • Hospital information: Pick up a copy of the directory of the hospital your parents use and keep it in the folder.

By gathering the information for each folder, you'll be identifying the kinds of things you need to know to help organize your parents' care. One of the leading causes of hospitalizations among the elderly is adverse drug reactions. It's really important for you to know all of the pills your mom and dad are taking. Read and maintain the drug package inserts that spell out possible problems with the drugs. Make sure all of your parents' doctors know what they're taking, including over-the-counter drugs. Whenever a prescribed drug has caused problems, note that in the drug folder.

More on: Aging Parents


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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