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Monday, November 22, 2021

The Importance of Maintaining Personal Medical Records

When things fall apart, the physicians and clinics you are accustomed to using may not be open. If things have truly deteriorated, they will not have the means to maintain your records for you. There won't be any connecting to the cloud or the internet or whatever. There probably won't be supplies for the Xerox to provide you copies of your medical records. You are going to have to maintain your own records.

You may as well get started now while you have a clear mind and others around you to help you remember and document everything. You definitely do not want to be doing this in a crisis.

There are dozens of templates for medical health history forms online and available for downloading, and you can certainly use one of these to create your own if you don't want to trouble your doctor (or you don't have one). But unless you're a pretty sickly person, most of the answers to questions on those forms is no, right? You check hundreds of boxes indicating that you don't have that disease or condition, and neither has your father, mother, siblings, children, ... dogs, whatever. And you have a lot of papers that the doctor then has to flip through.

Future caregivers need to know what illnesses or conditions you (and your blood relatives as best you know) have had. Plain paper will work just fine to maintain your records. The information you need to include in your records is the same information you provide when you fill out those forms in the doctor offices.

First off, especially for preparedness purposes, is the vaccines you've received and the dates they were administered.

Next, your family health history as best you know it, for your blood relatives. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, whatever it is, document it. Also the age of death. Many of these conditions are genetic and if your caregiver is aware of any greater risk you may have due to your family history, better care and suggestions can be offered.

Follow that up with your personal history. What injuries and surgeries have you had? Why? For women, provide the number of children as well as the number still living. Number of miscarriages and/or abortions. Document everything about your illnesses. The dates, medications administered, duration. List all your allergies. Very clearly somewhere, perhaps on the top of every page even, note your blood type. Note things that are "normal" for you that are not normal for everyone else. For example, if you're in the 10% of the population that has one pupil more dilated than the other, that better be noted in your records or you're going to have care providers thinking that you've got brain damage. I've got a son whose eyes will occasionally become very dilated. We've never been able to figure out why, and no, he's not on drugs.

It's a hassle, but start documenting every fall, every illness, and every injury. The more information you can provide a caregiver, the better. Without laboratories to assist in diagnosing illnesses, paper records are going to become invaluable. And things you might dismiss as insignificant may actually provide valuable clues.

Case in point: I was visiting with a friend who was concerned about her fourteen-year-old son. He had Down's syndrome which of course sometimes made communication a little difficult. He hadn't been feeling well for several days, was always thirsty, always going to the bathroom, and pretty lethargic. I remarked that it sounded a lot like my husband, who became a type-1 diabetic as a high school senior. After he'd spent a few nights sleeping by the bathroom door, his parents got him into a doctor (who then immediately got him into the hospital). And I mentioned that this all started shortly after he'd had influenza. At this point my friend got a bit of a worried look on her face and replied that her son, too, had just recently had the flu. There is a lot that is not understood about type-1 diabetes, but one little bit of trivia for you to keep in mind is that when some strains of influenza go through a community, the incidence of new cases of type-1 diabetes increases by 25%. My friend had her son into the doctor the next day, and indeed, he had become a type-1 diabetic.

The caregiver needs to know all drugs you have been taking and are currently taking--every prescription and OTC medication. Illegal drugs. Coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco use. Or whether you used/abused in the past and have quit. Every supplement you are taking and how much, all herbal remedies, and probably whether you are harvesting your own. S/he's going to want to know dietary changes. Have you made a rapid transition from a diet high in processed foods to whole grains and high fiber? Yeah, stuff like that can cause serious problems.

Keep your medical records in a heavy duty Ziploc bag and take it with you to each and every visit with your doctor. And be sure to include enough blank paper for notes to be made. Make Murphy's law work for you--you know, perhaps if you have plenty of blank paper in your medical records the doctor will never have need to use it.

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