Monday, June 23, 2008

10 Items Caregivers Should Know About Their Loved One

Life has a way of coming at us when we least expect. As caregivers, we never know when our loved one will have an emergency situation, or we are asked for important information we may not have at hand.

After an unexpected health crisis sent my father to the hospital last year, I found just how important preparation was in keeping myself calm during a very trying situation. Taking time to gather the following information about your aging parent will greatly enhance doctor and hospital visits, planned or unexpected.

1. Names, phone numbers, and addresses of all doctors, including medical, dental, podiatrist, optometrists and pharmacists. They may be able to provide detailed information regarding your parents' medical history.

2. Birth date and social security number. Many computerized medical facilities now use a patients social security number and/or birth date to access pertinent files.

3. List of allergies. Knowing when a parent may have an allergic reaction to medications such as penicillin or codeine can prevent serious side effects.

4. Medical conditions and health history. Physicians like to know of preexistent health concerns such as diabetes or heart problems. Especially helpful to include are the major medical conditions of your loved one's parents, brothers, and sisters.

5. List of medications. If possible, have your parent carry a list of their medications including over-the-counter products such as aspirin, daily vitamins, cold or sleep medicine, or herbal remedies. Some doctors have their patient bring the medications with them to routine office visits for review.

6. Insurance information. Include name of provider and policy number. If possible, copy the front and back of all insurance and Medicare or Medicaid cards. Make sure you know what kind of coverage they have.

7. Prior surgeries, medical procedures and tests. Provide dates and results of x-rays, CT scans, MRI's, and medical implants such as pacemakers.

8. Lifestyle habits. List any known drug, alcohol or tobacco use or addictions.

9. Durable or medical power of attorney, advance directive, living will. Know what legal documents are in place and where they are kept. If your loved one becomes temporarily or permanently disabled, who has authority to make necessary decisions?

10. Community resources. If possible, gather information regarding adult day care, assisted living facilities, and long-term care options. What resources are available for delivery of meals, in-home nursing care, household assistance, or transportation. Hiring someone to clean house, mow the lawn, or provide snow removal where necessary greatly aids the elderly when they are no longer able to perform those tasks.

Gathering the above information will not only help you and your loved one prepare for an emergency, but should give you a sense of peace knowing everything you need is at hand.

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