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Organizing a Senior's Medical Information for Rapid Access

If you’ve recently taken on the role of caregiver for a senior loved one, you may feel as if you are drowning in a sea of paperwork. After every physician's appointment, your stack of papers grows. Organizing all this important information… so it can be accessed easily… may feel overwhelming.

The key is to create a system that is easy to maintain and update. That will make you more likely to use it. We have a few tips to help you get started.

Organizing a Parent’s Medical Information

The first step is to sort all medical information by topic or category. A few suggestions include:

  • Calendar: It’s convenient to store appointments on your cell phone and set reminders. However, documenting time-sensitive details on a physical calendar is important, too. You can identify at a glance when to schedule follow-up appointments and testing. (Keep in mind: Many older folks struggle with electronic calendars and detailed record-keeping.)

  • Medical history: This category could include your loved one’s patient visit notes from medical appointments, hospital discharge orders, and any health summaries a physician may have provided.

  • Test results: While most hospitals and physicians use electronic medical records, not all systems interact with one another. If the older adult sees physicians at several health care institutions, having printed copies of test results can make them easier to share.

  • Medication list: At every medical appointment, you’ll likely be asked if any medications have been added or changed since your last visit. Maintaining a comprehensive medication list makes this easier to answer. Include dosage information and the name of the prescribing physician. Don’t forget over-the-counter medications, too. Every MD visit summary you receive should also include the most up-to-date medication list.

  • Family medical history: Another standard practice when seeing a new physician for the first time is a family history review. This helps the physician assess risk factors for hereditary or genetic conditions. Having this information typed up with extra copies to share can save time at each new physician visit.

  • Advanced Directives: It’s vitally important that your loved one specifies,

ahead of time, how they want to be treated as their time on earth shortens. These directives are clear, written instructions that are followed by all caregivers. But they can be complicated to understand and prepare. Here are the names of directives you will hear about: Last Will and Testament, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney, M.O.L.S.T. (in NY State).

Work with a competent and trustworthy Elder Law attorney and your loved one’s final wishes will be met.

  • Physician contact list: You’ll also want to create a list of your family member’s current and past physicians. Include all pertinent contact information, such as office addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and fax numbers. Keep it current!

How to Store Medical Information

Many families prefer an old-fashioned approach to storing documents. A large three-ring binder with tabs for each category can be quickly set up and easily maintained. If you choose this option, create at least one backup copy to store in a safe, secure location.

There are also a variety of digital solutions for storing important medical information. Most are easy to access and share. Many of these online programs provide a good solution for families where multiple siblings are involved in caregiving.


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