As any family caregiver knows, keeping track of your loved one’s (and your) medical information can feel like a daunting task. If you’ve found yourself frantically searching for the latest lab report as you’re rushing out the door for yet another doctor’s appointment, you’re not alone. No doubt all of the doctors’ notes, hospital records, lab reports, and medication summaries might easily fill several file cabinets. The key when sorting and filing this information is to know what records you need to keep and how to store them so they are available to you or someone you trust quickly and easily. If you’re looking for a convenient, easily accessible tool that can be updated regularly with a minimal investment of time, there’s no better solution than a three-ring binder.
Begin by making a copy of all insurance ID cards for both primary and any secondary insurance you or your family member have. Make a separate tab for all the major doctors your family member sees and file each report under that doctor’s name in chronological order (with the latest dates on top). Take Care Text box 2 Update the binder after each new appointment. This will allow you to have the latest medical information available at a moment’s notice. And don’t forget to purge any information that may no longer be relevant to your family member’s immediate care. This paperwork can be stored in a separate file.
You can use the contents of the binder to prepare for doctors’ visits, a trip to the ER, or for someone else who may be caring for your family member when you are away. “The only appropriate method to maintain medical records is to file them in a way that would allow you to pass them on to someone else,” says Mike Klatzkin, a Maryland CPA who is also the father of a special needs child. “It’s like having insurance, even though the hope is that you will never need to use it. You can gain enormous piece of mind by being prepared for someone else to take over your loved one’s care — whether it’s for a few hours, a week of respite, or, if need be, indefinitely.”