People have lots to juggle — and to remember — when it comes to their health. Having incomplete or inaccurate health records may interfere with good care, as the records should contain the facts that doctors need to know to treat patients properly.
Health records need to include up-to-date descriptions of medications. Most adults age 45 and older take an average of four prescription drugs daily. And that’s in addition to any vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter medicines. There are many challenges related to managing medications, including no care coordination among doctors, other health professionals and caregivers, which often cause unintended medication interactions, side effects, etc.
Help a Caregiver
At any age, it’s easy to forget important information about health — when the last physical or health screening occurred, and what medications are currently being prescribed.
By helping a caregiver write down a loved one’s entire health and medication record in one place, you can help the caregiver take better care of their loved one, and you may discover clues about problems the person cared for could encounter. If the caregiver and care recipient are comfortable sharing this information with you, you can write it down for them. If not, share the tools below so organizing information will be easier for them.
Start by recording general information such as age, emergency contacts, health insurance, doctor’s names, allergies and special conditions such as having a pacemaker or epilepsy. Add a list of health care providers not forgetting dentist, pharmacists, social workers and more. Then list any conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Begin to record hospitalizations, office visits, screenings and tests. Check the Tools section for some easy-to-use resources to get you started.
Prepare several copies of the health and medication record to give to the loved one’s doctors and family.
Get information about blood relatives, record the ages of family members and what conditions they have. If they're deceased, record the cause of death.
Include the names of all medicines, including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs and any dietary supplements the loved one takes. The medication section of the health record should describe how the loved one takes his or her medicine, how much and when. Explain why the drugs are taken, their form (pill, liquid, caplet or the like), the dosage, and the start and stop dates. In addition, help the caregiver by exploring whether or not the loved one’s medications are well managed. For example, if you help the caregiver with transporting loved ones to doctor’s visits, don’t hesitate to ask questions about why the person takes a particular medicine:
- What is the drug supposed to do?
- Are there side effects?
- Are there alternatives?
- Does the medication work safely with the other ones the patient is taking?
- Are there similarly effective, lower-cost brand-name or generic drugs?
Tools to Help You Get Started
Medicare Guide to Starting a Personal Health Record: Medicare has information to help you get started on creating a personal health record. You can find this information at www.medicare.gov.
Age-related Health Records: Other personal health record tools for children and adults are available through the American Health Information Management at http://www.myphr.com/resources/choose.aspx.
While we cannot change our family history, knowing it can give doctors the information they need to request early or more frequent screenings.
Family Health Portrait: The U.S. Surgeon General's Office has an Internet-based tool called “My Family Health Portrait” (https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/fhh-web/home.action). Enter the family’s health history, print out a family tree for the doctor, and — if you choose — share the information with other family members. When you help to create this personal health record, fill in the sections a little at a time. Over time the record will take shape and the loved one and his or her health care providers will be equipped to do a better job because of your efforts.
Personal Medication Record: Track your medications and help your doctor and pharmacist have the most updated information by creating a Personal Medication Record. This form, available in both English and Spanish, allows you to list all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements, the doses and how you take them. www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2007/my_personal_medication_record.html. Or find a how-to kit on helping others with the Rx Snapshot medication record at www.CreateTheGood.org.
Article: Get Healthy, It’s Never Too Late - www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-10-2009/women_health_aging.html
Drug-Interaction Checker - healthtools.aarp.org/drug-interactions
Pill Identifier - healthtools.aarp.org/pill-finder
Drug Compare (see how any two drugs stack up on dosage, side effects, interactions and more) - healthtools.aarp.org/drug-directory