Home > Caregivers, Record-keeping > Managing the Paper Trail

Managing the Paper Trail

If you’ve served as caretaker for a functionally impaired person, whether they have dementia or another disease, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that there’s a lot of information that has to be kept track of.  Medical records are not the only things that have to be organized; there are also financial records, as well as legal matters.  The entire process can be a daunting one.  But, if one starts early, when the individual with dementia is still able to give you assistance, it can actually be rewarding.  This process can be viewed as a way of getting to know your parent, or your brother, or your friend, a little better.  And you can feel comforted to know that you’re helping ease their own burden a little.

I have seen caretakers who keep pertinent information in a file box, or a binder, so that it is all easily accessible and you don’t have to go searching through the house for it.  When sitting in a doctor’s office, or a hospital emergency room, there are often other things to think about besides where Mom’s living will is kept, or what medications Frank is taking.  Having all that information right there at hand makes things go more smoothly.

Here are some of the pieces of information that you may want to gather, in addition to medical records:

— Full legal name and residence

— Birth date and place, birth certificate

— Social Security and Medicare numbers (be sure to have the original cards available)

— Employer(s) and dates of employment

— Education and military records

— Sources of income and assets, including investment income (stocks, bonds, property)

— Insurance policies, bank accounts, deeds, investments, and other valuables

— Most recent income tax return

— Money owed, to whom, and when payments are due

— Credit card names and account numbers

— Safe deposit box key and information

— Will and beneficiary information

— Durable power of attorney (There should be two:  one for medical decisions, and one for financial decisions.)

— Living will, or advance directives

— Where cash and other valuables might be kept in the house

Much of this is very personal information, and the individual who you are helping out may be reluctant to share it.  This should be handled carefully, assuring them that you are not trying to invade their privacy or take over their lives.  You are merely helping them to accumulate information that may be needed in case of an emergency.  Reassure them that you will respect their privacy.  If your parents are still uncomfortable sharing this information with you, ask if they would be more comfortable doing it with a lawyer or a trusted friend.  But it is better to do this earlier, rather than later when the individual’s memory loss may complicate things.

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