My 25-year-old son refers to 60-year-olds as old. As much as I protest, hes not changing his opinion. Hes wrong, but maybe its time for me to face the facts -- Im not getting any younger. At age 56 its time to take charge of my health and my medical life. Since reading Mark Lachs book Treat Me, Not My Age Ive given a lot of thought to this topic. Dr. Lachs is a renowned gerontologist, and the subtitle of his book is A Doctors Guide to Getting the Best Care as You or a Loved One Gets Older. The book has been a major eye-opener for me.
Counting myself, I have three people to tend to and worry about and assist with medical issues. Theres my ex-husband, age 57, who is in an assisted living facility with multiple sclerosis, my aging mother and myself. Fortunately Im in pretty good health.
I understand many of the issues related to caregiving. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to deal with Medicare, multiple doctors and chronic illnesses. Add an aging parent to the equation and its a lot of responsibility. So far weve managed but I now see, thanks to Dr. Lachs, that its time for some very specific planning. With the help of his book Ive come up with a list which will enable me to feel more prepared:
1. Registering with the local hospital to access records and medication lists. This is a new program which I can enroll in for myself and those for whom I have a medical proxy or power of attorney. Ill have access to all the vital healthcare information at any time and from any location.
2. Carry a list of everyones current medications with me as well as Medicare and health insurance cards. The medication lists will be updated continually so Ill set up files on the computer for this as well.3. Do some planning with my mother. I want to know if she has done any health care planning and what preferences I need to be aware of. Well have to discuss nursing homes, in-home care and the financial considerations. Ill review her medical directive and get a copy for my files. Weve already taken the steps to make me the medical proxy as well as the power of attorney.4. Assume a more official role as patient advocate which means coordinating records, care, history and personal needs for each of us.Im going to start a journal of each persons medical problems with doctors names, dates of visits, and outcomes. The information is available in their medical records, but having it in hand feels like a good idea as well. This will allow me to quickly reference incidents and treatments and help keep all providers informed.5. Take personal steps to improve my own well-being. Dr. Lachs reinforces the fact that exercise has a powerful role in countering or lessening the effects of aging on mobility, muscle strength and bone density.6. Visit local nursing homes. I have selected a few to check out in person and on the Medicare website page which rates nursing homes. When the time comes to transition my ex-husband from assisted living to nursing care Ill have the information I need and can make a more informed decision.
7. Find a time to talk with my adult sons. As a single woman I dont have a built-in caregiver and my sons need to understand what that means for them. Ill share my medical information with them and show them where records are kept. Ill need to have a power of attorney drawn up for them.8. Download and install the free iPhone app called ICE+; it holds emergency information like medications, contacts, and even hospital preferences.9. Urge my siblings to buy the book Treat Me, Not My Age. When the time comes for us to become more involved in healthcare decisions with mom, theyll be more informed and prepared.10. Work with my doctor to reevaluate my medications and overall health. Do I still need cholesterol medicine? Ive wondered how we could really tell unless I go off the pills. I plan to talk to my doctor about some of these issues in my upcoming appointment. My ability to take care of my own needs is limited only by my lack of knowledge and involvement in my health care. With this plan I feel more confident about my own ability to seek the right care, to communicate with my physician and plan for my medical future. Maybe its a sign that I am getting old, five years ago I wouldnt have given much thought to managing my own health care or planning for my old age. About the Author:Walker Thorntonis a Virginia-based writer and a frequent contributor to ThirdAge.comDo you have a personal medical plan ? Share your comment below.