Seventeen years ago, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She is one of the lucky ones. After removing the entire lung, chemotherapy, radiation treatment and a whole bunch of other things, she was proclaimed cancer free within six months of her diagnosis. Cancer free is always music to the ears after a battle with cancer. Nevertheless, I am not writing about cancer today, I am writing about a simple tool that helped us navigate and get through the medical labyrinth with relative ease. We still use it today.
With every new diagnosis, there is a process, a new set of doctors to visit, and, to say the least, it is very daunting. Unless you are experiencing the same illness, there is something new and there is always a learning curve navigating the process. When my Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were lost. This was a new illness for our family to tackle; there were new doctors, new tests, and new procedures. It was overwhelming and very confusing. Every new doctor and lab needed the same information, as well as copies of all the previous test results.
Therefore, instead of trying to remember the details every time, we came up with a medical history sheet.
The sheet includes:
- Mom’s name, address, phone number, birth date
- List of all her doctors, address, phone number, fax number
- List of her allergies
- List of previous surgeries and hospitalizations, including dates
- Insurance, laboratory and pharmacy information
- Medications, herbs and vitamins
- Her Social Security number would be very helpful to include but we did not for security purposes.
I cannot tell you how handy the sheet was and continues to be for our family along with every medical staff that has interviewed my Mom and Dad, for that matter. Of course, we made one for my Dad too. Every time I would visit my folks, I made sure all the information was updated and noted the date that the update was made on the sheet as well (it’s important to use the most current info); medications tend to be added or changed quite often as one ages. My folks would carry the medical info sheets (for themselves and each other) in their wallets and a copy was taped to their refrigerator, in case of emergency. My brother and I both have copies to help facilitate services.
The sheet has been used countless times over the years. Like when my Mom fell down and broke her hip, 911 was called and my 86 year old Dad simply handed the sheet to the EMT; it was a blessing during a very stressful time. And recently, while my Mom was visiting my brother and came down with pneumonia, the sheet was given to the admitting nurse in the ER. Medical staff are always grateful for this helpful resource, as it no doubt facilitates care and make their job a bit easier.
Even 17 years after the first sheet was created, it’s still an incredible tool to make a very stressful situation a bit more bearable.
If you have elderly parents, you don’t have to wait for a crisis to create a medical information sheet, just do it. Perhaps you will never need to use it, but if you do, you will be thankful that you did.
What do you do to help facilitate getting through medical crises? Please share and I will continue to share.