How to Get Access to Your Parents’ Health Records

As your parents age, you may become more involved in their medical care. They may ask you to drive them to appointments or help make decisions about their care. As you do this, you may find you need to get access to their health records. Because HIPAA prevents the distribution of medical information to anyone other than the patient, your senior loved one will need to grant you permission (if they choose to do so). Spouses and grown children do not necessarily have access without authorization.

Here are a few tips to help get the information you need to be able to best assist your loved one:

1. Your parent or loved one is in charge.
They have the right to designate who they want to have access to their medical records. If that person is not you, be respectful of their decision.

2. Have your loved one fill out the right form.
When the patient goes into the hospital or doctor’s office, they should specifically ask to fill out a form that says who can get access to their health records.

3. Ask your loved one if they want you present during the medical visit.
A doctor is allowed to give information to a spouse or family member if he or she is present during a doctor’s visit or a hospital stay. If the senior has a family member come with them to the doctor, the doctor can assume that the senior wants the family member to have access to the senior’s medical information unless the senior states otherwise.

4. Have your loved one complete a living will.
A living will is a legal document that states who may make decisions about the patient’s healthcare in the event they are unable to make decisions themselves. It is really important for everyone to have a living will – even you!

With a little extra attention and planning, you will be able to help your parent or loved one with their medical care.


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Why Urgent Care May Not Be Your Best Choice

When you or a family member get sick, do you go to urgent care? If so, you may want to reconsider.

Urgent care facilities have become common. Most people live within close proximity to one or more. These facilities can be handy for quick-fix issues that need speedy attention, but don’t require an emergency room. Urgent care often is open after hours and on weekends, making it a convenient option for busy people. In addition, they are often less expensive than a visit to the emergency room.

Despite all of this, depending on your reason for visiting, urgent care may not be your best choice. Here’s why:

1. Lack of medical history
Your family physician or pediatrician knows you and your children best. They have records of all of your previous visits and are familiar with your medical history. The urgent care facility will not have this same understanding of your background. They will be able to assess your current illness or ailment, but will not have your full medical history to add context to the situation.

2. Possible drug interaction issues
You always want to be careful about drug interactions between anything you are taking now and whatever the urgent care physician prescribes. Because that physician does not have your full medical history, they also may not know what you are currently taking or what you have had experience with – good or bad – in the past. If you do go to urgent care, make sure you tell them everything about medications you are taking now, allergies, or adverse effects you have experienced in the past. Then check with your pharmacist and your family physician to make sure the any medication prescribed by the urgent care physician is safe for you to take.

3. Difficulty following up
When you visit urgent care, you may have trouble following up with the physician you saw. Sometimes the staff you saw at night is not available during the day, or they may hold a position with another medical facility during other hours. Often, the urgent care physician will tell you during your visit to schedule a follow-up appointment with your own family physician. This is always a good idea and will give you the opportunity to address any questions or concerns you had after your urgent care facility, as well as allow your family physician to update your medical history.

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How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility

Do you have a loved one who needs to move to an assisted living facility? There are so many options these days with a range of services provided. How do you choose the one that is right for your family member? Here are a few tips.

1. Involve Your Loved One
This may be a big change for them, one that they may be ready for or nervous about. It will be very different than living in their home with a lot of space and all of their furniture and lifelong treasures. But, this is going to be their new home for some time. Include your loved one in conversations and visits to the facility to help them feel involved in the process.

2. Explore Room Types
Ask the facility what kinds of rooms are available and ask to see them. The options may include single rooms, rooms that have a roommate, single rooms that share a bathroom and/or a kitchen, or larger apartments with a bedroom, kitchen, and a living room area. Facilities vary on the type of rooms they have. Also, be sure to ask what is available at the time of the move in. You want to make sure your loved one is getting the right living space for them and keep an open mind. They may start off thinking they want a single room but actually end up loving having a roommate as they have some company. Everyone is different.

3. Ask About Costs
This may go without saying, but one of the main questions to ask about costs. Be sure the facility representative lets you know about all of the costs associated with living there. What is the cost for each type of room? Are there dining fees, housekeeping fees, or activity fees? When you have a list, ask, “Are there any other fees?” Then be sure to choose the facility and options that fit your loved one’s budget, as well as their needs. Although your loved one may want a large single room, it may be cost prohibitive.

4. Visit at Different Times
If possible, visit the facilities you are considering at different times of day and different days of the week. This will give you a good idea of what your loved one can expect about noise level, activity, available services, and so on.

5. Consider Roommates
If your loved one is considering a roommate, inquire about the medical condition of the person to determine if their medical or other needs may disturb your loved one. For example, if the roommate requires help going to the bathroom and has to go frequently, this may disturb your loved one’s rest. The roommate may talk a lot and your loved one may prefer quiet. Make sure the pairing is a good fit.

6. Room Location
Consider where the room is located within the facility. If your loved one needs a lot of assistance or has many medical needs, you might want to choose a room that is close to the staff desk or the nurses’ station. If, however, your loved one does not like a lot of noise, you may want to pick a room that is located away from the main hallways or staff stations.

7. Choose Furniture
Once you have chosen a room, you should talk to your loved one about what furniture they would like to bring from their home. The facility may offer to provide furniture for the room. If possible, you should try to bring at least a few “important” pieces of furniture from your loved one’s home. The Assisted Living facility will be new and unfamiliar. Your loved one may be apprehensive about moving. Having the room look and feel as much like home as possible will help with the transition.

8. Determine the Change Policy Finally, it is important to find out what your options are if your loved one does not like the room they have selected. Will they be able to move without an extra charge? Whatever the policy, get it in writing from the facility
Preparation and planning will help your loved one’s move to an assisted living facility be successful.

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