What Kind of Documents Do We Need?
National Institute on Aging
Effective caregiving depends on keeping a great deal of information in order and up-to-date. Often, long-distance caregivers will need to have information about a parent’s personal, health, financial, and legal records. If you have ever tried to gather and organize your own personal information, you know what a chore it can be. Gathering and organizing this information from far away can seem even more challenging. Maintaining up-to-date information about your parent’s health and medical care, as well as finances, home ownership, and other legal issues, lets you get a handle on what is going on, and allows you to respond quickly if there is a crisis.
If you do not see your parent often, one visit may not be enough time for you to get all the paperwork organized. Instead, try to focus on gathering the essentials first; you can fill in the blanks as you go along. You might begin by talking to your parent and his or her primary caregiver about the kinds of records that need to be pulled together. If a primary caregiver is already on the scene, chances are that some of the information has already been assembled. Talk about any missing information or documentation and how you might help to organize the records.
Your parents may be reluctant to share personal information with you. Explain that you are not trying to invade their privacy or take over their personal lives—you are only trying to assemble what they (and you) will need in the event of an emergency. Assure them that you will respect their privacy and keep your promise. If your parents are still uncomfortable, ask if they would be willing to work with an attorney (some lawyers specialize in elder affairs) or perhaps with another trusted family member or friend.
©2007 National Institute of Aging