When you have a complicated medical condition, keeping track of all the doctors’ appointments, tests, medications, prescription renewals, insurance questions and myriad other details can feel like a full-time job. Managing your own care on top of doing your best to battle fatigue, pain and a raft of other symptoms can be downright exhausting. Managing a loved one’s care can be exhausting, too.
Not everyone can afford an Aging Life Care™ Manager to take the load off. Here are some key strategies, based on our years of experience, that can help you to keep better track of all the moving parts.
One of the most time-consuming aspects of managing a complex disease is dealing with a variety of medical specialists. They may be part of the same healthcare system or different systems; if the latter is true, more time is involved with sharing medical records and insuring that the specialists communicate with each other. A few tips:
- Create an easy note-taking system that enables you to keep track of what was said in each appointment, relevant test results, and any other observations you want to share with the physician. You may want to keep a notebook or maintain your record electronically on a smart phone or tablet. Explore apps such as CareSync or CareZone that streamline personal health record-keeping. This will help you to manage important details between and across specialists’ appointments.
- Make sure that all healthcare consents are in place so that the specialists can consult with each other. Without permission, especially across systems, they will not be able to share confidential medical information.
- Have someone accompany the patient who also knows his or her medical story and is good with details. This might be you, another family member, or a friend. If you are the patient, and you’re having difficulty keeping track of all the details, then bring someone along who can fill in the blanks.
- Bring a written summary of the patient’s relevant medical history along to appointments with specialists, especially if they are new to the case. This will save everyone time, and allow you to think ahead about key details that must be mentioned. When creating the narrative, keep these points in mind:
- You only need a concise summary of the medical history; don’t write a full biography. The past six months to a year of details will be enough. Confine the rest of the past history to one paragraph.
- Include a list of medications that have worked and those that have not.
- List the other doctors that the patient has seen.
- List previous relevant treatments and outcomes.
- Bring a list of questions that you want answered. Be sure you get the answers before you leave!
- If possible, when there are many specialists involved and important decisions to be made, request a group meeting. This may be easier to accomplish when all the specialists are in the same healthcare system. In any case, it does not hurt to ask. You must be your own best healthcare advocate.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of this, and hiring an Aging Life Care Manager exceeds your budget, consider one other option: a consultation with an Aging Life Care Manager can help you, your loved one and family to sharpen your care coordination skills and identify community support services that may be affordable or even free.
And be sure to do your own cost-benefit analysis; especially if you are taking time off from work in order to provide care management for a loved one, and losing income as a result, you may just find that hiring a professional will save you money, time and much stress in the long run.
President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care™ manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.
For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.