How to Effectively Be an Advocate for Your Loved OnesToday many people find themselves in "charge" of a loved one's personal and medical needs. This could be a parent or another relative, or just a really good friend who has no one else to advocate for them. I am in that position on two different fronts. I have my mother and my uncle who are both in their late 80's and finding daily tasks to be more difficult everyday.
While they are in good health generally, there is much that needs to be tracked to keep them that way.
When an emergency hits, then you are in real "trouble", so to speak. And this is why I am here to let you know about a resource that will help you in those stressful times.
What do you do in an emergency?
Just recently I had to call an ambulance for my mother. She could not walk, she was in a lot of pain and she had just been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that came up out of nowhere. To say I was a little stressed was the understatement of the year. The EMT's (emergency medical team) were wonderful. When they arrived though, they had questions that I should have been able to answer at my fingertips. Because of the stress of the moment, there were things that I forgot about, or did not have the answers too! Who knows if that would have made a difference. All I know is that I was very upset with myself for NOT having all the answers to their important questions. Because of this incident, I have been looking into ways to keep track of her symptoms, medications, dates of surgeries, prognosis (es) and such.
She has seen many different doctors for different episodes in her life, and they are all important!
When the answer to a situation is calling an ambulance, then it is much better for you and for your loved ones, if you have all the answers to all the questions right there in front of you.
Do NOT Rely on Your Memory!
I have called an ambulance for my mother on three different occasions and each one was a "medical emergency". Now you would think that having to call an ambulance would solidify that date in your mind. Well I'm here to tell you that it does not. I had to really rack my brains in order to come up with the year(s) that each of these episodes happened. This is not a good scenario when it comes to emergency medicine. They need to know everything about this person's health in the last 20 years. So unless you have a photographic memory, you should have a written record of each of these episodes readily available. To that end, I have found what I think will work really well for my mother and my uncle. It is a Medical Records Journal! I cannot stress enough, how important this is.
Keep your Journal Up to Date! It doesn't help if you don't keep the records for all doctor's appointments.
I like this Medical Records Journal because it has pages that are removable(for things you don't need, like baby immunizations) or places to add pages(like when they had a flu shot or other procedures). It has a place for all the different times that she has been to the doctor for regular check ups and extra space for those times when something else has happened to change the direction of her health care. There are pages for specialists that she has seen, medications that they have prescribed and on-going return visits. I wish I had had one of these just a few weeks ago. There is even pages for emergency responses so that you can keep track of who and when they were transported to a hospital. These are all very important things that you as a care-giver should know and have access to. No more guessing if the heart attack happened in November of 2010 or January 2011.
There are pages in this Medical Journal to keep track of all the information regarding the different physicians that have treated her. There is space for their names, phone numbers, addresses and more. You may not think that is important, but I'm here to tell you it is!
There are pages with envelopes attached where lab results, blood work results and more can be inserted. Pages of information regarding the patient's "medical issues" and ongoing care can be inserted into the proper spaces too. Things like blood sugar levels, heart rhythms, kidney dialysis
days, and more. Everything is in a really nice binder with a clasp, so that nothing goes missing.
It is a great resource not only for doctors visits, but for you as well. I know I listen intently when we are at the doctor's, but I often find myself going over the instructions in my head. It is much better for you and for the patient, if you have everything written down. When all the emotional upset has cleared, you can revisit exactly what the doctor recommended. What you hear and what your loved one has heard may be two different things altogether. Written instructions are the much better alternative.
It is a great responsibility and pleasure to be able to care for a loved one but, it is also stressful. When they are healthy it's great, but when something out of the ordinary happens, you have to be prepared.
Here's wishing you a Happy Healthy New Year with all your loved ones.
**I am not a doctor, what I have written here comes from my experience. If you are not sure ask your doctor for his/her recommendations. I am sure they will agree that this is a great resource for you and for your loved ones.
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