Family caregivers should prioritize organizing and keeping copies of their elderly loved ones’ medical information because by having quick and easy access to this pertinent information, you have increased flexibility when making health care decisions. By having your elderly loved ones’ medical information organized and easily available you can make quick decisions both in an emergency and in your routine checkups. By having extra copies easily organized you can change doctors efficiently as doctors usually get medical information from other doctors however because of the bureaucracy that can take time. In addition, if you would like to get a second opinion on a medical condition, having key medical information available can be helpful to support the doctor in making a well-informed decision. Being informed is a key aspect of managing any medical condition, as the status and progress of a medical condition will often correlate with the results of medical tests. For example, diabetes is often measured using the hemoglobin A1C level, so by keeping copies of those test results the patients and their caregivers will be able to understand the circumstances of their specific condition. With knowledge comes power and thus by understanding their specific health conditions they will be able to participate in monitoring and managing those acute and chronic illnesses more actively. As you become more informed with your understanding of the elderly loved ones’ health conditions, you will become the best advocate when double-checking medical care. Mistakes do happen, and by having copies of medical information, you will be able to look out for any mistakes or anomalies and correct them before any dire circumstances.
Useful Medical Information
Here is a collection of test results and medical information that you should be keeping track of and copies of to be able to advocate for you and your elderly loved ones’ health care.
- Medication list
- List of surgeries
- Record of chronic health conditions and past acute conditions
- Laboratory results:
- Blood work test results are key as they include information related to blood count blood electrolytes and even kidney function.
- Urine test results, keeping records of any test results are helpful especially recent ones and ones within the last two years.
- Radiology results:
- Including X Rays, CAT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasound tests.
- Pathology results:
- Biopsies and their subsequent pathology reports.
- Hospital discharge summary
- discharge information packets contain limited information, so it is more effective to obtain the actual clinical summaries as they contain important information in regard to the patient’s hospitalization.
- Advance directives
- When patients are too ill to make medical decisions, bringing any advanced directives such as the power of attorney or a living will be effective guidance during those situations.
Types of Personal Health Records for Seniors
There are a variety of different methods for keeping medical information organized. when creating your or your elderly loved ones’ personal health record (PHR), you may have access to electronic health records through patient portals. Electronic copies can be controlled by the seniors and their family caregivers. An advantage of an electronic copy is that it is easy to organize and combine medical information from different health care providers. A website designed to store this health information is Microsoft Health Vault which is a well-established PHR. When using this software, you need to be careful that the data is encrypted to maintain security and privacy. It will be well organized but could feel time-consuming when entering information.
Another option is the good old fashioned paper binder. paper binders are easily accessible because they are cheap, easy to use, easy to organize with a table of contents, and efficient when traveling to a new doctor so they can photocopy any records they want to keep a copy of. Unfortunately, binders are vulnerable and can be easily destroyed or lost and you cannot share them among multiple different family members and caregivers who are supporting the senior.
By taking care of an elderly patient’s medical information and maintaining an organized and easily accessible set of records, family caregivers can support their loved ones when transitioning between doctors, managing health conditions, and even in times of critical care. Collecting and organizing copies of records can be time-consuming but doing it in advance will save precious time later in times of emergency.
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