Monday, February 04, 2008

managing our health: it's a full-time job

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It occurred to me last week as I dedicated blocks of time to research, phone calls and updating my health care information document that managing our health conditions is a full-time job unto itself. Luckily there are some tips a "professional" patient like me can pass along to make it a little easier.

Develop a filing system

Hopefully you already have a system in place for filling financial documents, insurance policies, tax information and similar kinds of important household data. If so, it's a snap to incorporate files for your health care information and that of each member of the family.

Give each member of the household his or her own file. Separate the documents into four categories: insurance, care providers, medication & treatments and notes. Notes is a place to keep your lists of questions and the answers you receive as well as any other notes you take at your appointments. The others are fairly self explanatory. If you find that these categories don't meet your needs, tweak this system so that it works well for you and your family.

Take good notes

Write everything down. It's a good idea to keep a notebook with you so you can jot down questions as they occur to you in your day to day life. Sometimes it's hard to remember them when you sit down at the end of the day.

Come to all appointments prepared to write everything down. You'll want to note the answers to your questions, any directions or warnings about medication, tips on how to minimize side effects and anything you are responsible for doing for your own care.

Make lists

Between the number of things we often find on our plates and the negative effects migraines and our medication can have on our memories, keeping lists is essential.

I keep my to do lists in the same notebook I carry with me for writing down notes and questions. It works well for me because I always have my list with me in case I need to add something or have time to kill and want to get something done while I wait.

Keep a calendar

If you're like me you probably keep a calendar on your computer. It's great to have that kind of system as a sort of master calendar for your life. But unless you have an electronic method of taking that calendar on the go, such as a PDA, it's important to keep a small calendar with you all the time so you can make follow up appointments or schedule things around existing appointments wherever you are.

It works best for me to carry a little pocket calendar from the dollar bins at Target in my purse. In the past I've found it useful to print out my digital calendar and carry the pages with me in a planner. The bottom line is to figure out what works best for you and do it.

Keep a master address book

When you see many different care providers it's essential to have all the contact information for them at your finger tips. You'll want to share this information so that all your treatment providers can stay in touch and coordinate your care, but you also need to plan ahead in case of emergency so your family or friends know who to contact and have ready access to that information. You can keep this in the same pocket calendar you carry around with you for simplicity or in a separate portable address book. Again, do whatever works best for you.

If you have other tips please share them in the comments.

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