Being organized is the key to success for all caregivers, but it can definitely be a challenge to gather and keep track of all the important documents and information you'll need. I suggest you gather your loved one's information in one secure place for easy access. Here are the documents I've found to be critical as I am caregiving for my parents, and (above) my Taking Care with Amy Goyer video on cool tech tools to help you stay organized and access information quickly.
First, collect the basic information. You may not immediately think about needing these things, but believe me, you will! Make copies of these:
- Address and phone numbers.
- Driver's license or State ID cards (if your loved one isn't driving get them a state-issued ID card - in most states they are issued by Bureau of Motor Vehicles like a license.)
- Organ donor wishes and cards.
- Social Security numbers.
- At least two emergency contact persons, including the order in which people should be contacted. You may want to create a phone tree so only one person need be called and they call the next person on the list.
The minimum health information you'll need includes:
- All your loved one's doctors and pharmacies (both local and mail-order.)
- All medications and supplements, including the purpose, dosage and schedule, prescribing doctor, and side effects.
- A basic medical/health history, with past and present conditions, blood type, drug allergies, surgeries and hospitalizations.
- Copies of all health insurance cards (including Medicare or Medicaid,) phone numbers, websites, log-in and password information.
Legal documents you'll need may include:
- Advanced Directives - including Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney - these may be very long documents, so you can try keeping a copy on a thumb-drive to carry with you to hospital or doc appointments.
- A Will or Trust - these also may be very long, but know where they are and remember your loved one's attorney should always be able to send a copy to anyone who needs it.
- Citizenship papers and Passport if your loved one is a naturalized citizen or not a U.S. citizen.
- Marriage and Divorce papers - you may need these for insurance, benefits applications etc.
- Military records - there are several reasons you may need these, including Veterans benefits applications and burial arrangements.
- End of life instructions, including body donor wishes, burial or cremation plans, location, prepaid funeral plans, mortuary and wishes for services.
You'll also want all the basic financial information, including:
- Durable Power of Attorney - documenting your ability to manage financial matters.
- Bank account locations, numbers, and access information - login, password, personal ID number (PIN). Is your name on their account?
- Safety deposit box location, permission to access and keys.
- Credit card numbers, websites, phone numbers, PIN, log-in and password information.
- Property and mortgage documents, website, log-in, password, automatic payment information.
- Any other loan documents, such as a home equity line of credit or a personal loan.
- Automobile information, including license and registration number, insurance information, loan information and roadside assistance plan.
- Insurance policies (such as life, disability, health, long-term care, home and auto) including coverage, websites, phone numbers, log-in and password information etc.
Remember, all of these things can change often, so keep them current, and try apps and websites such as Dropbox, Evernote or AboutOne to store and organize them so they are at your fingertips any time on your phone, tablet or computer - and easy to share with other family members. Technology really can make your life easier!
How do you stay organized? Please share your tips in the comments section below.