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Stop depending on your doctor for all information concerning your aging parent’s health. Start keeping your own medical records for your aging parent today.
One of the first things you tackle when taking care of an aging parent at home is their health. Unless they are meticulous record keepers themselves this probably has a multitude of question marks surrounding it.
- Who are their doctors and what condition do they treat?
- What other options are out there?
- What are their treatment plans?
With all these questions it can be difficult to make sense of it all?
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Be Their Advocate
When my FIL passed away very suddenly in 2014, I had a list of medications and a stack of appointment cards. I spent the next two years trying to determine her diagnoses and treatment plans. We “fired” some doctors and sought alternative treatments all in an effort to get my MIL the best care possible.
At one point my MIL was on 16 different medications prescribed by 7 different physicians. Not only is this confusing in itself but I also had to find a way to keep all 7 specialists aware of what the others were doing so there were no cross-treatments or lapses in her care.
This posed a problem. I don’t have a medical degree and my MIL’s records are not the only ones I keep. I was struggling to remember everything the doctor’s were telling me. Naively, I thought they were all talking amongst themselves to discover the best treatment for my MIL’s overall health. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
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Keep Medical Records for Your Aging Parent
My MIL complained of constant lower back pain for our first two years. She had been prescribed two different narcotic pain medications and was seeing a specialist for monthly “med Checks” (an appointment that ensures these powerful medications are being taken appropriately) because of the addictive nature of these drugs.
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I started becoming suspicious of the necessity of this treatment when her primary care physician informed me he had nothing in her charts about her claimed diagnosis of “extreme degeneration” of the spine.
After extensive research, I discovered she had been “diagnosed” by a chiropractor in Georgia. She had never had any x-rays or scans. Her pain management specialist had never done any testing. Jut prescribed highly addictive medics to my MIL with Dementia according to her chart from a doctor in another state.
With evidence in hand, I confronted her pain management specialist who suddenly and suspiciously ordered her first blood test upon which my MIL was immediately discharged from his services. His reasoning was alleged “misuse of narcotic medications”.
Not wanting a lapse in her care, I sought a second opinion and was informed my MIL had minor arthritis that could be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
During this process, I started keeping meticulous records on any communication I had with my MIl’s physicians and any research I was doing.
Today my MIL’s health is excellent. Where she was taking 16 different medicines, she now takes 6. She sees 2 doctors and one specialist. All of this I credit to taking my MIL’s health into my own hands and keeping records at home.
Creating A System
Your first step toward creating your own medical record system is gathering information.
- Make lists of your parent’s current medical symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, physicians.
- Gather your parent’s current medical records. You can do this by simply requesting them from your parent’s physician. There is usually a small fee associated with providing these records.
In order for your parent’s doctor to provide you with medical records your parent must have a signed HIPAA Release Form or Power of Attorney.
After creating your information sheets and gathering your parent’s records, decide what you want your system to look like. There are typically two preferences, digital or paper.
I’m a digital girl. I keep a home management “binder” on Evernote.
- Information is available at all times.
- I can easily search using keywords to find what I need.
- Clutter is greatly reduced.
- Information is easily shared with family when needed.
- You’re tied to the “system” of the programming. Rather than adjusting your records to fit your needs, you have to adjust the way you keep them according to the program you are using.
For my paper lovers out there, create a binder just for you parents medical records. Keep your records in reverse chronological order (newest in front). Use different color flags with categories such as “in progress”, “to discuss”, or “resolved”.
- It’s often easier to cross-reference paper than digital.
- Customization is easier. You can easily make records fit a system that makes sense to you.
- Paper systems can get bulky and out of control very quickly.
- It’s difficult to quickly find information or anticipate what information you may need.
Document Your Research
An important aspect of any health plan is doing your own research. That research doesn’t do you any good if you’re merely recalling tidbits of info during your appointments. Document your research and have it available to present to your doctor during your appointments.
It’s a mistake to believe that doctors are all-knowing and have all the answers. Your doctor should be open to hearing what you’ve discovered and discussing it with you.
Tips for a Successful Doctor’s Visit
- Be present at ALL your parent’s doctor appointments.
- Let the doctor know ahead of time what you would like to discuss. Most doctor’s now have a patient portal that allows you to email your doctor directly. This will save you a lot of time at the appointment. It also gives you a chance to mention some of your parent’s symptoms without embarrassing or infantilizing them in front of their doctor.
- Bring records from your last visit and from other doctors and specialists you have visited. Make sure everyone is on the same page. This will ensure that your parent receives the best treatment for their overall health rather than treatment for a singular condition.
My MIL had a lot of issues with UTI’s and urinary retention when we first started caring for her. Her urologist kept prescribing different medications in an attempt to prevent these issues. Her primary care physician was prescribing medicines for her diabetes and blood pressure without ever knowing that she was also having urinary tract problems.
It turned out that one of her diabetes medications was causing her to have UTI’s. The treatment for the UTI’s was causing high blood pressure. It took us a long time, a lot of effort, and several tips to the hospital emergency room before we discovered the issues. Since adjusting the medications and treatment she hasn’t had urinary tract problems in two years.
Keeping our own medical records at home has increased the quality of care my MIL receives. We have fewer medications and doctor visits because everyone is kept on the same path. I am confident my MIL is getting the best care possible. My MIL is healthier than she has been in a long while giving her a better life for a longer period.
Did you like this post? Have you ever thought about keeping your own medical records for your aging parent? Let me know in the comments below!
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