“Mom is in the hospital and we can’t find her information!”

Unfortunately, this is an all-too common situation that family caregivers face. When you are in the midst of a family emergency, you want to be with your loved ones, supporting each other. The last thing you want to do is frantically scramble around your parent’s home, looking for documents and phone numbers.

To help avoid this situation, we recommend gathering important medical, financial and other information in advance. Here are some helpful tips:

Prepare

  • Have a conversation with your parent or relative in advance.
  • Let them know you want to have the conversation in advance. Don’t spring it on them at the last minute.
  • Find a good time to talk. Is Mom a morning person? Then find a time after breakfast to go over the important documents.
  • Pick the right person for the conversation. If one sibling is particularly patient and/or organized, then they might be the best person to collect the information.
  • Understand you may not get everything in one sitting. Mom and Dad could get tired or frustrated, and so could you. Try to recognize everyone’s limits in advance. Take a break or come back the next week to continue the job.

Organize the information in one area

  • Create a locator log:
    • Buy an address book or a binder and list each important item under the corresponding letter or binder tab.
    • For example, pharmacy information could be listed under “P” and the bank contact information could be under “B”.
    • Place the locator log in an easy to find place that is not in the open.
    • Make one copy for your parents and one for yourself
  • Use a computer:
    • Do not label the document “Important Information” or “Passwords”. If the computer gets hacked, you do not want someone to be easily able to find this list. Use an easy to remember name that is meaningful to you, but not related to the information in the document.
    • Also, be sure to print out a hard copy. If the computer crashes or you are facing an emergency, you want easy access to the list.
  • Update the list every few months or when a password changes.
  • Make sure the system is simple and works for you and other important family members.

Collect

Some key information we recommend collecting includes:

  • Bank account – checking, savings, etc.
  • Health Insurance:
    • Medicare
    • Long Term Care
  • Doctors:
    • General Practitioner
    • Specialists
    • Is there a nurse or physician’s assistant who could help expedite things for you?
  • Know the locations for:
    • Car Title/Lease
    • Apartment lease
    • Title to the home
    • Insurance – home, auto, etc.
    • Important bills
  • Is there a Power of Attorney?
    • Name
    • Contact Information
    • Type of Power of Attorney – medical, financial, etc.
  • Advanced Directives:
    • Living Will
    • Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
    • Make sure advanced directives are in an easy to find location, in case paramedics or other personnel need it. A good location is in a bright plastic sleeve on the refrigerator or by the phone.