Be Prepared: Create a Medical and Emergency Information Folder

Imagine that you’re at work. You return from a meeting to find several messages from your mom’s caregiver. As you listen to them, you sigh with relief—your mom is fine, but the caregiver couldn’t find your mom’s health insurance card.

Have Important Information on Hand

Making your loved one’s vital information easily available can simplify caregiving. Depending on how much help your parent needs, you may choose to have a folder with medical and emergency information in one place, and make financial and legal information accessible only to primary caregivers.

Keep the folder near a calendar with medical appointments. Although there are many ways you might organize it, one way is to have personal and health information in one pocket and medical insurance documents in the other.

Information to include in your vitals folder:

  • Your parent’s name (as it appears on their insurance information), address and phone number (for respite caregivers or aides who might not know), and date of birth
  • List of doctors’ names and specialties, addresses, and phone numbers
  • Name, address, and phone number of pharmacy
  • List of all medications with dosages. In addition to prescriptions, be sure to include herbal remedies, vitamins and supplements, and over-the-counter medications. (Tip: Because active ingredients can vary, list all medications by brand name.)
  • List of medical suppliers, including those who can send replacement supplies overnight in an emergency, such as Parent Giving and Medex Supply.
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • An emergency plan of action
  • Clear, legible photocopies of photo ID and both sides of all medical insurance cards (consider enlarging the photocopies to make them easier to read)
  • Name of health insurance company as well as phone numbers for customer service, billing, and claims
  • A few health insurance claims forms
  • Your parent’s health history, including any allergies, chronic medical conditions, illnesses, and events such as surgeries or falls

Store Medical Records Online

Websites can be an effective way to manage your loved one’s medical information. Numerous Personal Health Record (PHR) providers have sprung up in recent years to help patients consolidate health information.

You can enter a wide range of information into PHRs. Most allow information about allergies and adverse drug reactions, chronic diseases, family history, illnesses and hospitalizations, imaging reports, immunization records, lab results, medications and dosing, surgeries and other procedures, for example.

Some PHRs allow for data to be shared with others, such as doctors. Some are compatible with heart monitors and blood glucose devices, so your loved one can upload vital information that you or a physician can track. PHRs can also let you transfer medical records to and from doctors’ offices and hospitals, and order prescriptions safely and securely.

Separate financial and legal information:

Financial information and legal documents should be kept as private as possible, yet still be convenient for caregivers who need access to:

  • Your parent’s Social Security number
  • Copies of wills, including a living will
  • Advance directives
  • Durable health care power-of-attorney form
  • Copies of life insurance policies (including any policies through an employer)
  • A list of bank accounts, annuities, IRAs, pensions, and other retirement information; include account numbers, the name of the investment firm, broker, and phone number

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