Tips for Organizing Health Information

Tips for Organizing Health Information

A trip to the emergency room made me realize why caregivers are advised to organize heath information. When Mom broke her hip, I called an ambulance. When it arrived, I confidently recited Mom’s 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.
However, while I did not know it then, I would be joining Mom in the hospital the next day with an emergency of my own that kept me in the hospital for six weeks. As we both recovered, I looked for the best way to store 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 isn’t 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: A medical history; health insurance and Medicare cards; a list of medications including dosages, frequency, date started and reason; a list of emergency contacts, relationship, addresses and all phone numbers; any special logs such as blood pressure readings, blood sugar levels or symptoms; a copy of a health care proxy, advanced directives or living will; and a power-of-attorney, if one is used.

What should you keep in a medical history?

Names of all physicians; known allergies or reactions to medications; all medications, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbs; health conditions and date of diagnosis; dates of most recent exams, tests and immunizations; dates and reasons for hospitalizations; dates and details of surgeries; dates and length of major illnesses; history of smoking and use of alcohol; location of living will or medical directives; history of exposure to dangerous conditions or hazards; family history including illnesses or conditions of parents and siblings; cause of death of parents and siblings and their age at death.

Recording and storing the information

While the primary copy of the health information is more practical to keep in physical form due to various cards, forms and original documents that are part of the medical record, it is highly recommended that at least the medical history also be recorded digitally so that a “backup” copy is available in case of emergencies, disasters, or as the need arises to provide other family members or doctors with the information if needed remotely.

  • For the primary copy, use a pocket folder or small three-ring binder that will hold several pages. We purchased a multi-page presentation folder with clear pockets from an office supply store.
  • Use a bold color for the cover, such as red or yellow, so that it is easy to distinguish from other papers. Label the front clearly: EMERGENCY MEDICAL INFORMATION.
  • Keep the folder in a handy location, such as a desk drawer near the entry. Make sure every potential caregiver knows where it is kept.
  • Use top loading, clear sheet protectors to hold papers. These make it easy to remove papers for photocopying or for handing to a healthcare worker.
  • Pick up a business card from each healthcare provider you see. Cards usually contain the name, specialty, address, phone and fax number. There are vinyl business card holders available at office supply stores that are the most practical way to store business cards.
  • Each time you have an appointment, take the reminder card or jot the appointment details on a 3X5 card. Slip these cards into a page protector just as you did the business cards to keep a record of the visit.
  • When you add any information to a document, put the date at the top of the page to show how current the data is.

With a Medical History in hand,  I will never again have to phone a doctor’s office to relay information I didn’t have with me at the appointment, and I’m confident that if I’m not around, someone else can tell the emergency room doctors what they need to know about my loved one.

First Aid Kit for Seniors Living at Home

First Aid Kit for Seniors Living at Home

First aid is an important consideration when caring for an elderly person at home. It is important to know that seniors are more vulnerable to accidents and injuries since they often lack strength, flexibility and can have brittle bones.  Also, their sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste may have declined, making them more vulnerable to accidents. It is very important that the elderly take care of their skin as well, because they are more susceptible to skin infections and disease due to natural changes in aging skin. These changes make the skin less elastic, thinner and dryer allowing more injures while also being slow to heal.

 What to Put in Your First Aid Kit

It is important to keep a well-stocked first aid kit on hand. You can purchase a kit or create one of your own. You can create one using a portable file box that can be found at any office supply store or large discount store. Be sure to keep your first aid kit someplace where it can be located quickly and be sure to give it a regular check up by replacing expired items and updating informational lists.

Creating a list of insurance information, medical contacts, and medications could prove to be a very helpful addition to your first aid kit. We often have trouble trying to remember things in the event of an emergency, which is why adding procedures for specific conditions would also be a great asset to your first aid kit.

In being prepared for emergencies let’s take a look at what a first aid kit should have in it:

  • Thermometer
  • Antiseptic solution or wipes, such as hydrogen peroxide, povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Calamine lotion for stings or poison ivy
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Band-Aids in assorted sizes including knee and elbow sizes
  • Latex gloves (these should be worn any time you may be at risk of contact with blood or body fluid of any type)
  • Triangular bandages for wrapping injuries and making arm slings
  • Thermal patches
  • Instant cold pack
  • Gauze, tape, and Ace bandages
  • Hand sanitizer or soap
  • Tweezers, scissors, safety pins and needle
  • Eye goggles and sterile eyewash such as a saline solution
  • Pain and fever medicines, such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Decongestants to treat nasal congestion
  • Anti-nausea medicine to treat motion sickness and other types of nausea
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Antacid to treat upset stomach
  • Laxative to treat constipation
  • First aid manual
  • The senior’s medication list with dosage and times taken
  • Phone numbers for emergency contact, doctors, pharmacy, and insurance information.
  • If needed: blood pressure monitor, oximeter, blood sugar meter and/or AED (Automated External Defibrillator)
  • Medical forms such as living will, DNR, or advance directives

When traveling, take the kit with you. You may want to add a blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, medical consent forms, and a medical history form. For specific medical conditions be sure to include any necessary equipment and instructional information. If you elect to keep a separate travel first aid kit, be sure to copy and include all medical information.

Purchasing a First Aid Kit

The American Red Cross and many drugstores sell first aid kits with many of these items. Remember, for the kit to be useful, you need to know how to use it. You may want to take a Red Cross first aid course or at least purchase a first aid manual to learn first aid basics.

When to Get Your Loved One Help

When to Get Your Loved One Help

For most of us, independence and privacy are an important condition for a comfortable life. We each have our habits and methods of doing things, and life has a rhythm that just “fits” our personalities. But as people age and physical changes occur, we may find ourselves or loved ones dealing with those changes ineffectively. Sooner or later the question starts ringing in our heads, “When should I look for help?”.

But then we think, “Oh, I don’t need help. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.”.  Or, “I can’t tell Mom what to do; she’d never listen to me.”.  Or, “Dad would never accept help; he’s too proud.”. Or, “It’s not time yet. Let’s wait.”.  So, we wait and do what we can ourselves, all the while still wondering, “When should I look for help?”

The good news is we don’t have to guess. There are some common indicators that tell us when it’s time to get some help. We don’t have to wait for a crisis situation to throw everyone into a panic. If fact, the goal should be to avoid the crisis, for everyone’s benefit.

Here are some indicators to consider:

  1. Physical Condition: Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with a medical condition that affects their daily living? Examples: dressing, grooming, shaving, toileting, eating.
  2. Personal Care: Are baths/showers being taken regularly? Is there any body odor? Are teeth and hair brushed and washed regularly? Are incontinence products worn if necessary and changed regularly and correctly?
  3. Driving: Has driving become difficult, uncertain or scary? Have reflexes and decision making slowed? Have new dings, dents or scratches appeared on vehicles?
  4. Nutrition: Is your or your loved one’s weight stable? Are they eating regularly and nutritiously? Is the refrigerator properly stocked with a variety of foods? Do any of the foods have expired dates? Is there spoiled food in the refrigerator or on the counters?
  5. Household Tasks: Are household chores being done regularly? Examples: dusting, laundry, vacuuming.  Are bed linens changed regularly? Have household chores become frustrating, physically demanding or time consuming?
  6. Socialization: Does your loved one have moods of loneliness, despair, depression, frustration, irritability or anxiety? Is there fear or anxiety about leaving the house?
  7. Mental Health: Are there memory lapses?  Is there difficulty finding the right words? Is there inconsistency between words and action? Is insecurity or moodiness evident?
  8. Medication: Are medications being taken regularly and on time? Are medications being refilled on schedule? Does your loved one understand what the medications are being taken for?
  9. Finances, Mail, Paperwork: Are they having difficulty managing their checkbook, finances, bills or personal affairs? Are there past-due notices arriving? Is mail piling up? Is there a reasonable amount of cash on hand? Are important documents or similar items like purses, wallets and keys being misplaced frequently or for long periods of time? Are they appearing in unusual places?
  10. Safety, Security and Sanitation: Are appliances being left on such as the stove or coffee pot? Does your loved one fall asleep with cigarettes burning? Is the house temperature getting too hot or too cold? Is the house frequently unlocked? Have they fallen in the past 6 months? Have there been multiple falls? Is there clutter on the floor? Is trash piling up in or around the house? Are toilets functioning properly? Are pets being taken care of?

Family members often see the changes in the way their loved one moves, acts, thinks and responds to situations around them but dismiss them until one of two things happen: (1) family begins to spend so much time helping their loved one that they have little time for their own responsibilities, or (2) the senior experiences a physical or medical crisis. Both of these result in undue stress for the family and their loved one. If you have a concern with even one set of indicators, it’s time to acknowledge it, learn more about what is causing it, and explore what options are available to overcome it. Speak openly, calmly, and honestly about the issue(s) and the type of assistance needed to support your loved one. Frequently, simple changes can make big improvements.

We encourage you to be proactive and avoid a crisis situation that throws everyone into an emotional reaction. Calm, rational transitions are easier on everyone than stressful, rushed ones.

Finally, keep your efforts as informal as possible. Rather than going through the house like an inspector with a checklist, make your observations through normal, casual interaction. Make a mental note when you see things that are of concern. Keep conversation non-threatening and cooperative. Make every effort to respect the senior’s wishes while assisting and supporting them.

The Benefits of a Therapy Pet for Seniors

The Benefits of a Therapy Pet for Seniors

For many older adults, mobility limitations, health issues and low energy can keep them from the social engagement they once enjoyed. Especially in seniors who live alone, social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and poor physical health. Pet therapy has been shown to benefit seniors by improving depression and anxiety symptoms, increasing self-care, and even improving heart-health. It turns out giving and receiving unconditional love is literally good for your heart.

Proven Benefits of Pet Companionship

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, a nationwide charity committed to connecting seniors with therapy animals, has collected research on pet therapy for seniors. These studies discuss the physiological and psychological impact of animals on seniors’ quality of life. Here are their findings:

Physical Benefits
Heart Health—Frequent interaction with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Improved Activity—Walking, grooming or playing with a pet increases the frequency of physical activity and exercise, which in turn has countless health benefits.
Healthy Behavior—Those who own a pet tend to take better care of themselves. Caring for a pet helps to develop a routine, encouraging owners to eat regularly or complete chores and other tasks.

Social & Emotional Benefits
Increased Interaction—Walking a dog gets senior owners out of the house and increases their opportunities to socialize with neighbors.
Decreased Loneliness—Pets provide companionship, giving isolated seniors a source for affection, conversation and activity.
Stress Relief—Being with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress. It also provides physical contact, which helps to calm anxiety.
Better Self-Esteem—For seniors discouraged by their age, appearance or limited abilities, pets are welcome company, reminding seniors that they are still capable of being loved and needed.
Sense of Purpose—The company of an animal provides a reason to get up in the morning. Pets combat depression symptoms by eliminating feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Knowing that they are loved and needed enhances seniors’ mental health.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet
If you think your loved one would benefit from owning a pet, ask yourself these questions to help you make a wise decision:
What is the best choice for a pet? If your loved one has trouble walking or is more limited in their ability to provide constant attention to a pet, a cat might be a better choice than a dog.
Is my loved one an experienced pet owner?
Taking on the responsibilities of owning a pet could be overwhelming for a senior who has never had one before.
Are finances an issue? Consider your loved one’s financial situation. Animal care can be expensive, and if your loved one is on a fixed income, owning a pet could cause financial burdens. Assess the costs before you commit.
Choose the right pet. Do your research to find a pet whose age, size, personality and energy level fit well with your loved one’s.
Could I adopt an animal in need? Older animals in shelters have a lower adoption rate than puppies or kittens and have a greater risk of being euthanized. Adopting an adult, healthy pet for your loved one can eliminates the stress of training, match your loved one’s energy level and save the life of a loving animal.

By Caren Parnes

Tips for Organizing Health Information

Tips for Organizing Health Information

A trip to the emergency room made me realize why caregivers are advised to organize heath information. When Mom broke her hip, I called an ambulance. When it arrived, I confidently recited Mom’s 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.
However, while I did not know it then, I would be joining Mom in the hospital the next day with an emergency of my own that kept me in the hospital for six weeks. As we both recovered, I looked for the best way to store 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 isn’t 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: A medical history; health insurance and Medicare cards; a list of medications including dosages, frequency, date started and reason; a list of emergency contacts, relationship, addresses and all phone numbers; any special logs such as blood pressure readings, blood sugar levels or symptoms; a copy of a health care proxy, advanced directives or living will; and a power-of-attorney, if one is used.

What should you keep in a medical history?

Names of all physicians; known allergies or reactions to medications; all medications, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbs; health conditions and date of diagnosis; dates of most recent exams, tests and immunizations; dates and reasons for hospitalizations; dates and details of surgeries; dates and length of major illnesses; history of smoking and use of alcohol; location of living will or medical directives; history of exposure to dangerous conditions or hazards; family history including illnesses or conditions of parents and siblings; cause of death of parents and siblings and their age at death.

Recording and storing the information

While the primary copy of the health information is more practical to keep in physical form due to various cards, forms and original documents that are part of the medical record, it is highly recommended that at least the medical history also be recorded digitally so that a “backup” copy is available in case of emergencies, disasters, or as the need arises to provide other family members or doctors with the information if needed remotely.

  • For the primary copy, use a pocket folder or small three-ring binder that will hold several pages. We purchased a multi-page presentation folder with clear pockets from an office supply store.
  • Use a bold color for the cover, such as red or yellow, so that it is easy to distinguish from other papers. Label the front clearly: EMERGENCY MEDICAL INFORMATION.
  • Keep the folder in a handy location, such as a desk drawer near the entry. Make sure every potential caregiver knows where it is kept.
  • Use top loading, clear sheet protectors to hold papers. These make it easy to remove papers for photocopying or for handing to a healthcare worker.
  • Pick up a business card from each healthcare provider you see. Cards usually contain the name, specialty, address, phone and fax number. There are vinyl business card holders available at office supply stores that are the most practical way to store business cards.
  • Each time you have an appointment, take the reminder card or jot the appointment details on a 3X5 card. Slip these cards into a page protector just as you did the business cards to keep a record of the visit.
  • When you add any information to a document, put the date at the top of the page to show how current the data is.

With a Medical History in hand,  I will never again have to phone a doctor’s office to relay information I didn’t have with me at the appointment, and I’m confident that if I’m not around, someone else can tell the emergency room doctors what they need to know about my loved one.

by Kathy Porter

https://caregiver.com/articles/organizing-medical-history/
How to Safely Assist a Loved One After a Fall

How to Safely Assist a Loved One After a Fall

Senior falls can be very frightening for both the senior and the caregiver. And once in this situation, caregivers are often unprepared for how to get an aging loved one safely back on their feet. How to proceed will depends upon whether the senior was injured in the fall. If there is any question, it is always wisest to call 911 for help. If you do not feel able to assist your loved one, first responders are experienced in getting patients on their feet safely and can confirm that they don’t need to go to the hospital. If you do wish to assist your loved one yourself, it is best to educate yourself on the steps necessary to safely get your loved one up after a fall and avoid injuring yourself in the process.

Following are steps that can help you get a loved one upright, without hurting them or yourself in the process. Only attempt to help the person if you feel that both of you are able to safely work together. Otherwise, call for assistance. Again, these strategies should only be used when you are confident your loved one hasn’t sustained an injury. Excess movement can cause further harm.

Steps for Assisting a Senior After a Fall

  • Have your loved one lie still for a few moments. Stay calm yourself and help your loved one to remain calm by encouraging them to take slow, deep breaths.
  • While lying in place, have them perform a self-assessment to determine if they are injured. Ask them if they are experiencing any pain, where it is located and how severe it is. Examine them yourself for injuries like bruises, bleeding, possible sprains and broken bones.
  • If they have a serious injury (like a broken bone), then don’t move them. Call 911 and keep your loved one as warm, comfortable and as still as possible until help arrives.
  • If they aren’t hurt and they want to get up, proceed slowly. Stop and call for help if at any point they experience pain or become too fatigued to get all the way up.
  • Note: Your responsibility in this process is to guide them through these steps and keep them steady, not lift their weight. Your loved one needs to be capable of doing the physical work required to get up. If they cannot do this, then call 911.
  • Find two sturdy chairs. Place one near the senior’s head and the other down by their feet. First, help your loved one roll over onto their side. Have them rest on their side for a few moments to allow their body and blood pressure to adjust.
  • Next, assist them in getting from their side onto their hands and knees. You may wish to place a towel beneath their knees to make this step more comfortable.
  • Move the chair closest to their head directly in front of where they are so that they can place their hands evenly on the seat and assume a kneeling position.
  • Ask your loved one to lean forward on the seat and help them bring their strongest leg forward, leading with the knee to place their foot flat on the floor. The senior should look like they are in a kneeling lunge at the end of this step.
  • Move the second chair directly behind the senior and have them use both their arms and legs to push themselves up and sit back into the second chair. You can help keep your loved one steady, but keep your back upright and make sure they are doing the physical work to lift themselves.
  • Let the senior rest in a seated position until you are confident they can stand and move around without falling again.
  • It is important to notify their doctor that they have had a fall, and to monitor them for emerging pain or any signs of injury.

The following link provides a video that gives visual step-by-step instruction for a slightly modified procedure for getting the senior off the floor when a bed or sofa is close by:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10jR0zjl19Y

Fall Prevention Strategies

Family members can work together to devise solutions to minimize the risk of falls in your loved one’s home. Small modifications like eliminating trip hazards, installing grab bars and improving lighting can greatly reduce risk. We have resources available to assess a senior’s risk for falls and provide strategies to avoid them. We invite you to call for more information about this topic.