Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taking Charge Part 2: Three Steps for Creating a Medical History

If you feel aggravated when having to answer the same questions when moving from doctor to doctor, you’re not alone. But even in what seems like a waste of time, there is a bit of logic one doctor took the time to explain. He was the third doctor we’d seen in one morning on the way to a specialist. 

      “We do this to combat human nature.  People forget,” he said.  He pointed out that in his interview with us, he received a detail of Mom’s medical history we’d not put on the form he had in front of him.

Point made, lesson learned.

Having a detailed medical history in hand will help reduce the stress of answering repeated questions or filling out forms because the answers come more easily when have gone through the process of digging into the past yourself, on your own time. Writing a medical history down before there is a medical crisis, or at the onset of a new treatment, is even better.

Step One:
Break down your medical history into different areas (try using a separate sheet of paper for each heading):

Asking questions about
medications your loved one is taking
or has taken is a good way to start
breaking down a  medical history.
·         Medications:  Start with your current list of medications. Write down the condition you take it for, the doctor who prescribed it, and how long you’ve been taking it. Now take a step back in time. Were any of those medications a replacement for another? Why the change? Once you get back to the start of a medication supported treatment, you have a condition to document. Record medications you once took, even if you don’t take them now. This may help you remember an allergic reaction you had.
·         Conditions:  Write down all the conditions you are or have been treated for. Ulcers? Diabetes, depression? List each condition, the doctor or doctors treating it, and when it was first identified.
·         Surgeries:  List any surgery you’ve ever had. If they don’t come to mind immediately, check out your body in the mirror after a shower. Are there scars there you’d forgotten about? What caused them? Again, travel back in time. When did you have the surgery? What was the condition causing the need for surgery? Who was the doctor? What hospital? When did the condition start that caused the need for surgery. Check your Conditions list to make sure you’ve listed that condition. Were medications tried for ‘curing’ the condition before surgery was considered? List them on your Medications page. Even if the problem was solved by surgery, list the condition. It’s part of your history.
·         Tests:  record all the recent medical tests you had, the condition the doctor was looking for, and the result.  For example. CT scan of abdomen. Pain in side. Dr. X suspected appendix. 
·         Bones:  As one ages, those bones that have support the body for decades can start to wear out.  Bone injuries over the years, how they’ve healed, and any lasting effect, can impact current situations, even decades after the original injury.
·         Allergies:  Allergies may not be to medications alone, but to things like the latex in gloves, the dyes used for certain scans. It is essential to know allergies and the types of reactions to those allergies.  

Step Two: Keep these medical history sheets out over several days or even weeks. Work on them when time permits. Don't work on it so hard at once you increase your stress. When you think you're finished, re-write the information in a format that makes sense to you – generally putting this information in chronological order starting with the most recent works the best. 

Step Three: Make copies of your history and keep them with you when you head to a new doctor’s office. Update your history regularly - once you start you'll find that you remember more and more as time goes on. 

When it finally is done, everything you and your doctors need to put the lessons learned in your past, to address your need in the present, and bring you to the healthiest future possible will be close at hand.
Two Golden Nugget for Caregivers:  While you’re helping an aging loved one create their medical history… do yours! And remember caregivers, letting your aging loved one work on this over time gives them something to do that is helpful, and may take a strain off you!

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