Caregiving includes countless tasks that can range from preparing meals and housekeeping to supervising medications and attending doctor’s visits. Most caregivers of senior loved ones also hold a full-time job and care for their own families. The details involved in caring for an aging person can quickly become overwhelming and difficult to track. The challenge is to manage all of the responsibilities while making sure that nothing important falls through the cracks. Organization can help to keep your loved one safe and you well informed; especially when you find a system works for you.
As a caregiver, you will need to organize many different things. Some are used daily and/or weekly such as care plans, discharge instructions, medication and appointment lists. Other items are for long-term reference like financial and legal documents. All of them are important and as a caregiver, you need to be able to retrieve them at a moment’s notice.
Another reason why organization is so important is that healthcare is far from paperless.
Care plans, medication plans, discharge instructions and visit summaries are all given to the patient in paper form. Over years of treatment these papers can fill a binder. That’s when the old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place” really comes into play.
When you become a caregiver, set aside a couple of hours to establish a system of organization that works for you. Not everything will be available to you digitally so a physical binder will be of great assistance. Set up tabs for the following:
- Doctor’s appointments: This will contain written appointments and printed reminders given to you by the physician’s practice/hospital
- Medication lists: Create a matrix in a digital document that lists:
- All medications
- Dose and frequency of each medication
- Prescribing doctor for each medication
- Doctor’s phone number
- Pharmacy and pharmacy phone number.
Keep the matrix updated, print out a new copy and put it in your wallet. This is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the health and safety of your loved one. If your loved one ends up in the emergency room the first thing the staff will ask for is a list of medications. The list that the hospital can retrieve from your loved one’s electronic medical record may not always be up-to-date. The list you generate will ensure that hospital personnel can immediately, and quickly, view the medications your loved one is taking, know the conditions he or she is being treated for any contraindications that may exist with treatments they are considering.
- Visit summaries: Most doctors will print out a visit summary after every doctor’s visit. This provides an important medical history.
- Discharge instructions: Upon discharge from the hospital your loved one will receive discharge instructions that include home care for wounds, steps to rehab from surgery, food, drink and mobility instructions. It’s an important reference to improve recovery.
- Contact information:This should be another matrix you have created to hold contact information for doctors, nurse, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists, professional in-home caregivers and any other specialists who provide care for your loved one. If there is an emergency, after calling 911, you will be happy you can quickly retrieve a provider’s phone number.
- Medical records: Whenever you receive a medical record, such as lab results or imaging results, file them here.
- Legal documents: Your loved one should have assigned a Healthcare Proxy and Power of Attorney. Without a health care proxy the physician will not be able to give the primary caregiver information about the senior in his or her care. Keep those important documents close at hand in the binder.
- Make sure the health care proxy is placed in the electronic medical record system and attached to your loved one’s records so that all clinicians will see it.
- Insurance: File all your loved one’s insurance documents showing the policy number, coverage, insurance company and contact information. Your loved one may carry insurance cards in his or her wallet but it is important to have the official documents safely filed as well.
- Community support: Whether you are a long distance caregiver or live nearby, knowing about community support services can be of great help. These can include Meals on Wheels, transportation services, the local senior center, council on aging or elder care organization. Take the time to note their name, hours of business, contact person and contact information so you will have it when you need it. Community support also includes your loved one’s neighbors. It is important to know them and have their contact information should you need someone to check on your loved one until you can get there.
It takes time to set up this binder but as a busy caregiver, you will be glad you did. It will serve as a resource of information and a protector of important documents. Electronic documents are good to file as well. However, if you have to call 911 or rush your loved one to the emergency room, the binder will allow you to place essential information directly into the hands of emergency responders. Time saved is time spent caring for your loved one.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.