Caring for someone living with a chronic condition can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to think about, from medical care to emotional support, from daily logistics to planning for the future. Staying organized with paperwork may seem minor, but for caregivers, it can make everything you’re dealing with a lot more manageable.
It’s never too early to gather important papers for the caregiving journey. Start with the following four documents, tuck them in a folder or clear sleeve, and keep them in a safe yet easy-to-access place. While planning for the future can bring up difficult emotions, don’t shy away from having these important discussions with your loved one. You’ll be glad you did.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney (POA) names someone who will serve as a proxy to make medical decisions on behalf of a patient. For people who may not be able to communicate or make decisions on their own, it’s key to make sure that the POA is durable—meaning it will stay in effect after the person becomes incapacitated. The POA may also be springing. This means it won’t spring into effect until the person becomes incapacitated.
Ideally, a POA will be created early, while the person is still able to comprehend and sign the document with informed consent. If your loved one is unable to understand the document and process, you can appeal to a judge at your local court to review the case and grant POA to you or another appropriate person.
In either case, it’s a good idea to work with an attorney to draft a POA. You can find a lawyer through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or visit LawHelp.org to find free or reduced-cost legal aid programs in your community.
Not only does POA give you the power to make medical decisions for your loved one, but it’s also necessary for them to participate in medical research, as well as for you to obtain documents on their behalf. For example, a POA is needed to sign up on PicnicHealth so your loved one can help contribute to breakthrough research while keeping their medical records and documents in one easy-to-access place.
Living Will / Advance Directive
A living will records a person’s wishes for how and when they’ll receive medical care if they’re terminally ill or near end-of-life. It may include how long to prolong the life of your loved one if they’re incapacitated, as well as their religious preferences.
Similarly, an advance directive is a set of instructions that outlines your loved one’s healthcare wishes—but it isn’t limited to end-of-life. An advance directive goes into effect during medical events such as dementia, stroke, or coma. For example, this document may include a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order that can be signed by a doctor and put in a person’s medical chart.
List of Recent Medical History
While you may need a lawyer to help draft the above documents, a list of recent medical history is something that you can gather on your own. This kind of list is important to have in case of emergencies, as healthcare providers will need to know the context of your loved one’s care. Be sure to include any surgeries or procedures, as well as a list of all medications, treatment regimens, labs, imaging, and the like. This may seem daunting to gather—but if you’re signed up on PicnicHealth, you have access to these up-to-date details and can pull them easily from your loved one’s Timeline.
List of Recent Medical Team
This kind of list is also handy for emergencies—and once again, you can find all the names of your loved one’s healthcare providers right on the PicnicHealth dashboard. Simply go to the Care Team tab for a list of their specialists, primary care physicians, provider locations, and more. You can even share your loved one’s PicnicHealth medical Timeline with their care team if you so desire.