Organizing Your Documents
“One of the first things that threw me for a loop when caring for Mom was trying to get things organized. Luckily for us, my sister-in-law is great at it, but it’s a challenge for almost all families. Here’s a basic “check list of the basics” that I like from The National Caregiver’s Library.”
One of the first and most important things to do when devising a caregiving plan is to identify and organize important documents. To avoid confusion or hasty decisions, caregivers should organize key documents before a crisis happens.
Documents organized in a filing cabinet, stored in a fire-proof safe, or within an electronic spreadsheet of accounts, numbers and important passwords make it much easier on your caregiver or family members, and with help, you can get your papers in order.
The job is not an afternoon in the park, by any means. But setting aside a little time every day or week until you can check off items from the checklist below will put your worries at ease, make you feel more in control of your life and make the path much clearer for your loved ones when they are focused on you.
Follow this basic checklist of important documents and information for your loved ones:
• Birth certificate
• Social Security records
• Health and life insurance records, including your account numbers
• The names and phone numbers of your primary care doctor, as well as significant specialists you’ve seen. You may also include documentation of your recent medical history
• Advance directives. If you don’t have an advance directive, start with your family doctor, attorney or long-term care facility
• Name of clergy or layperson
• Funeral pre-arrangements, if you’ve made them
• Medicare documentation
• Trust documents
• Will documents
• Military records
• Divorce records
Deserving of its own checklist are the following financial documents:
• assets and sources of income
• bank accounts/safe-deposit box
• mortgage papers
• investment records
• negotiable securities
• credit cards
• your most recent income tax return
• loans, payments and balances
Involving Your Parent
Getting organized as a caregiver to care for a senior in his or her home should ideally involve the person being cared for! In this way, he or she will have a sense of participating in the care and knowing where things are kept and so on. If there are other family members or home care visiting nurses coming into the home, your senior relative will know pertinent information as well and will feel more in control.
Organizing the Home for Care
Elderly people may resist to a lot of re-organizing in the home. After all, he or she has likely lived in this home for a long time and has organized things exactly how he or she would like it. However, in the event of gradual frailty or illnesses, some things may need to happen to make sure that the home is not cluttered or difficult to manage. Especially important is ease of moving about in the home without the fear of falling or other safety or health concerns. The less cluttered things are, the less stress. An organized home will be easier to clean and maintain as well. So, consider some marathon sessions with your elderly family member to go through knick knacks and any paper clutter, etc. as well as making a safety checklist of the home to see what can be improved to ensure that caring for your elderly family member at home will be efficient and comfortable for everyone.
Becoming the Organized Caregiver
Caring for someone at home will also require the caregiver to be organized in his or her personal life! Often, caring for a senior adds to an already busy schedule and the more organized a person is, the better. If you are new to the task, getting organized up front will help you manage the increased work load and reduce stress. For more help, there are fantastic websites to help with organization in general and booklets about organizing your life as a caregiver.
One major way to prepare to care for an elderly person at home is to get yourself a good calendar. Some people like to organize things on paper-based pocket calendars – but there are great tools online as well. For instance, our free calendar helps you not only organize, but also you can set up email and/or text alerts so that you are given automatic reminders for recurrent appointments, tasks, or prescription refills and one-time events. You can also set up alerts and reminders for other family members. Whichever calendar you use, you should set a time each week to review your week ahead and check for conflicts and how you will manage your to do lists.