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Four Vital Document Sets to Keep by the Bedside

During a crisis, the last thing you want to do is search in drawers and files for paperwork needed for medical personnel, doctors, lawyers and the like. One of the best ways to help your parents is to assist them in creating necessary documents and keeping them in a file near the bedside. It also would be helpful to duplicate the information on a removable computer drive ("jump" drive) that you can quickly access and carry with you to the hospital if necessary. Here's a list of the four most important documents sets to have prepared in case of a crisis: Living will, health care proxy and other advance directives If there is a medical emergency and your parent is not conscious, medical personnel will use any and all measures they deem appropriate to save your parent's life, no matter what your parent's age or overall health.  Before a crisis happens, discuss with your parents what their preferences are regarding medical treatment under a variety of conditions and reduce these to writing in the following legal documents:
  1. Living Will – Lays out your parent's wishes regarding medical treatment
  2. Health Care Proxy – Identifies person with first and second alternate who is empowered to make health care decisions for your parent should he or she become incapacitated
  3. Other Advance Directives – May include wishes regarding organ donation, do not resuscitate (DNR), withhold nutrition and hydration
Basic personal information It may seem silly, but create a document that includes the basics: full name, personal description (height, weight, eye color, hair color, scars, etc.), current address, phone number(s) – BUT be careful not to reveal too much personal information that could lead to identity theft. Make sure the next-of-kin contact has information like social security number, bank account numbers and credit information. Complete contact information In addition to listing the next of kin, provide contact information (home, work and cell phone numbers, plus email addresses) for the following:
  1. Doctors, therapists, pharmacies and other caregivers
  2. Friends/neighbors
  3. Other relatives
  4. Employer
  5. Other regular homecare workers (house cleaners, pet walkers, etc.)
Personal health record Make sure your parent's personal health/medical record is up to date. Any time there is a change, record that change immediately in all places where the information is stored. In addition to a paper record, you and your parent may have the information stored on computers, jump drives and websites. The following is a list of items to maintain in the PHR:
  1. Full name, address and birthdate
  2. Blood type
  3. Any disease or condition that could affect medical treatment
  4. Recent illnesses (such as the flu or pneumonia – include treatment used)
  5. Hospitalizations (including reason for hospitalization, length of stay and recovery status)
  6. Surgeries (both in-patient and out-patient, with dates, reasons and follow-up treatment)
  7. Recent medical tests (dates and results)
  8. Current medications (list dosages; and include OTC vitamins and supplements, plus other substances such as caffeine consumption, alcohol consumption, smoking habits)
  9. Previous medications (including supplements you no longer take, such as hormone replacement therapy)
  10. Shot/vaccination record (including recent flu shots)
  11. Allergies (especially drug allergies)
  12. Health insurance (company name, phone number, group number)
  13. Pertinent family medical history
  14. Religious needs/preferences