As someone who has a chronic condition and many specialists, tests, test results and procedures, I know how quickly the paper pile can get out of control, even in a time of electronic records. Between the statements from my insurance company, the bills from the doctor’s offices the handouts my doctors give me on my condition or medication, it can get out of control.
I tried to just keep everything in one file folder, but I realized that first, I didn’t need to keep every piece of paper and second, my folder got overstuffed pretty quickly since I see a doctor more than once a month. A friend who cares for her mother, who has cancer, mentioned she keeps a binder with all of the details of her care.
I’m working on creating one for myself, but I thought I’d share the categories and information so that you can begin creating a binder as well.
- Doctor’s offices, email addresses and login information for medical websites. My medical care is managed by UCLA and I am able to review medical tests and communicate with my doctors through the website. If I had to constantly hunt for my username and password, it would be frustrating.
- Contact information for referrals such as physical therapy, specialists, laboratories and other frequently used services.
- Contact information for caregivers, transportation services and other resources for your caree.
- Keep a simple calendar in the binder to note dates of appointments and any issues you discussed with your medical provider. You don’t need a lot of detail, but it will help you keep track of duration of a condition. This will also help you remember when to address a concern about change/no change with your provider so that you can make changes as needed. You can put appointments to schedule (such as annual appointments) in a different color.
I struggle with this myself. I see my rheumatologist every three months, so I try to track things by visit. I had an infection, followed by a similar infection and the only way I was able to remember the timing of the first was that my family was on vacation and I couldn’t go in the swimming pool. Not the best way to track medical information.
- Keep a running list of prescriptions that includes the prescription number and any details about refills in one place. I have a medication that I can’t set up on auto refill. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t on auto refill until I was down to my last one and asked the pharmacist why they didn’t contact me. I now have a reminder to refill my prescription on my calendar.
- Create a schedule of times to take medications and whether they need to be taken with or without food or if there are special instructions. I once took an antibiotic that was weakened by dairy and another time took an antibiotic that was weakened by citrus. Who knew? Having a schedule will also help someone in jump in on caregiving easily if you are unable to care for your parent or are away.
Billing and out-of-pocket expenses:
- If you have outstanding bills, put them in the binder so that you don’t forget about them. Sometimes you will get multiple bills before the insurance company pays their share, so keeping everything in one place will make sure you are on top of payments. Did you know that in many cases, you can request your medical practice or hospital place you on a payment plan if you can’t pay the entire balance? The plan is usually interest free, so this is definitely more advisable than charging medical bills to a credit card. I’ve had bills as high as $3,000 and as low as $450 placed on payment plans. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- Keeping a log of your out of pocket expenses will also be useful come tax time. Many medical expenses can be tax deductible so keeping all of your records together will make it easier to deal with when it is tax season.
Special Care Instructions:
- This will be useful if you share care with someone or use a hired caregiver. Include any information about food allergies, likes/dislikes, etc. that you don’t want to have to keep repeating.
- I always like to include a notes section so that I can keep a running list of issues to address. For a medical binder, you could have a list of questions you’d like to discuss at the next medical information. You can keep adding to it and when the appointment comes, you’ll be able to pull it out and take it with you. When my oldest son was a baby, I kept a running list of questions in his diaper bag, since I always took it to his pediatrician appointments. That way, I wouldn’t forget my question and remember as I was walking out the door.
Let me know how your binder looks! I’m going to be working on mine in the next few weeks and will share my progress as well.