by Kim Keller
I was in Florida last week, accompanying my mom to an important appointment with a new doctor. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in these pages, Mom was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, so this appointment last week represented the beginning of a new chapter in Mom’s ongoing healthcare narrative. New doctors, new treatments, and new worries, of course, but as always, the same fundamental approach to creating and maintaining good health.
All those first visits naturally require filling out lots of paperwork. I’ll be thrilled when our medical information is accessible online and all that handwritten paperwork is no longer necessary, but until that day, this is what we must do. I’m grateful that my mom is so organized that she carries all her vital health-care information with her at all times. It makes the effort of filling out the paperwork so much easier, but more important, it ensures that her doctors are receiving the most up-to-date, accurate information.
Here’s the type of information you should keep on your list:
- Name, address, phone number, email address
- Birth date
- Height and weight
- Social Security number
- Emergency contact information
- Doctors’ contact information
- Insurance information: name of carrier and policy number
- Current Medication List (we keep this separate because we hand it out so often): include over-the-counter meds and vitamins, too. Remember to include all known allergies.
- Surgeries: type of surgery and year (for example, appendectomy, 9/92)
- Medical conditions and/or chronic health issues: include year of diagnosis, when applicable (for example, stroke-ischemic, aphasia 9/09; asthma, 12/01; hearing loss)
- Procedures and Tests: type, date, result (for example, mammogram, 1/12, clear)
- Family medical history: include information regarding your maternal and paternal grandparents, your parents, and your siblings. Indicate when someone is deceased, the cause of death, and his or her age. (For example, maternal grandmother, deceased, 2/95, lung cancer, 82 years old)
- Smoking: Do you smoke? And if you did smoke but quit, note the month/year you stopped.
- Alcohol Intake: How many drinks in an average week?
- Health Aids: Glasses? Dentures? Pacemaker? Hearing aid? Indicate all such aids, with applicable start dates.
- Chronic health complaints. For example, insomnia, vertigo, etc.
Mom regularly updates the health information she stores in her Franklin Covey Day Planner, which goes everywhere with her. On that topic, here’s another good idea: A friend of ours said her mother keeps her health information on a rewritable USB memory stick – also known as a flash drive – that she keeps attached to her keychain. Now that’s innovation!
My mom also keeps a copy of her health information clearly posted on her refrigerator, in the event paramedics are called to her house. My sister Karen and I also keep copies of the list, because we often need to reference it when talking with one of Mom’s doctors.
For each new doctor’s appointment, we bring Mom’s list, along with a bag of her medications, which includes over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. We also bring our file of her medical records. If you don’t have a copy of your loved one’s medical records, then start compiling one now. We keep the records in labeled folders: Stroke, Heart Arrhythmias, Cancer, etc. These organization techniques are effective tools for keeping your doctor up to speed and equipped with every last bit of critical information.
Take a moment to check out these forms that In Care of Dad has created to document critical health information. These forms will save you time and energy, and also ensure that you’ve included all the information necessary for any medical situation.
Kim Keller is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad. She lives and works in New York City.