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Tips for Organizing a Medical History

By Kathy Porter

(Page 1 of 3)

A trip to the emergency room made me realize why caregivers are advised to organize heath information. Like many caregivers, I share the task of going with my loved one to appointments. My sister usually takes our mom to the dentist, audiologist and optometrist. I take Mom to her physician, dermatologist and podiatrist. We cover for each other when work or travel demands it. I felt prepared until an emergency came.

When Mom broke her hip, I called an ambulance. When it arrived, I confidently recited Momís Medicare number. When asked what medications she took, I pulled out our basket of pill bottles. At the hospital, the questions got more complicated. Still, I knew enough to fill out the forms. Strangely, as I did the paperwork, I began to feel sharp pain in my lower belly. I was nauseous and feverish. I did not know it then, but I would be joining Mom in the hospital the next day with an emergency of my own Ė one requiring surgery and a six-day hospital stay.
I realized that my momís care was far too dependent on facts held only in my head. As primary caregiver, I managed the insurance, filled prescriptions and kept doctorsí names and phone numbers in my password-protected data organizer. I knew I should organize Momís records, but I didnít know how. As we both recovered, I looked for an easy way to keep her health information. I especially wanted an easy way to share it with others in case I am not around.

I now have a folder for paperwork that is portable and easy to maintain. It isnít just for emergencies. We take it to every doctor visit. Now anyone who has the folder can see when Mom had her last flu shot, what medications she takes and that she had a malignant mole removed in 1981. We can all see when all medical appointments are scheduled. Even my brother, who lives at a distance, could answer medical questions if he had to take Mom to the doctor while visiting.

Information to collect

You probably have most of this information readily available. If not, begin with what you have and add information as you can. Useful information to collect includes:

  • Health insurance cards, Medicare cards, and so on

  • Appointment reminder cards from health care providers

  • A list of medications including dosages, frequency, date started and reason

  • A medical history

  • A list of emergency contacts, relationship, addresses and all phone numbers

  • A sheet for recording the date of visits, the provider and any tests performed or instructions


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