In her role as a teacher, Donna Bryan nurtures young minds. When she’s not teaching, she acts as a caregiver, creating a nourishing environment for her diabetic father.
We interviewed Donna to find out how she became a caregiver, what medical templates she uses to track her father’s health, and how these customizable templates (which you can download below) help improve organization and reduce medical errors.
PP: How did you find yourself in the role of a caregiver?
I was a teenager when my mother was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. I remember boiling gel packs one day and freezing them the next to the place on her wrists and ankles. As I grew older I continued to take an active part in my parents’ care.
Just before my mom’s death in 2006, I promised her that I would take care of my father. When, after an illness, he wound up in a rehab center that wasn’t caring for him, I decided to move in with him temporarily to act as his caregiver.
To keep us organized, I fashioned a chart that would organize his medications, sugar checks, breathing treatments, IV therapy treatments, and therapist and nurse visits.
PP: What is the toughest aspect of staying organized as a caregiver?
Probably the toughest aspect of staying organized is that it is sometimes difficult to get others on board with my efforts. Communication is key when you’re relying on several people to help care for a loved one.
Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something changes. Perhaps there is an extra pill, a different dosage of insulin, or the need to track sodium intake. The changes might be temporary or permanent. It’s important to look at what you can adjust and what needs to be totally revamped. The job of keeping it all organized and easy for others to follow is constant.
PP: How did your organizational approach evolve as you continued as a caregiver?
At first, everything was done with paper and pencil. Eventually, I was able to type up forms in Excel and change them, as I needed. It made life much easier.
I have also found it helpful to have a dated planner to track each appointment. Notes may be kept on the individual date’s page (including vitals) and old notes may be referred to.
I also developed a binder that can easily be taken to appointments. It is divided into sections, the first two being medications and drug allergies. At each appointment I take those sheets out, hand them to the intake nurse, and a copy is made or the information entered into their computer. That way, I don’t have to fill out the same information every time we go.
PP: In what ways could our readers customize your charts?
My charts could easily be made to fit the needs of numerous medical issues. Pain conditions can be tracked by medication, diet and exercise and the effects on the patient’s pain levels. Color-coding or graphics could be used to make it easier to track. Charts can then be shared during physician visits to help the patient provide a better picture of his or her pain history.
PP: How does color-coding help?
Color-coding, whether on a hand-written chart, computer-created chart, or a set of pillboxes, can be helpful in reducing medical errors by keeping the caregiver and the patient safely organized.
At one time I had a color-coded medicine chart that divided Dad’s medication log into different colors depending on the time of day he took them. My nephew, who lives with my dad now, places all of his pills inboxes. The boxes are color-coded so that Dad knows which box to use before breakfast, after breakfast and at bedtime.
PP: What kind of feedback have you received from medical providers as they saw how you stayed organized?
Usually, the doctors and nurses seem very surprised. I recall one cardiologist who kept flipping back and forth through the binder, and then turned and told my father what a special daughter my father had. The smile on Dad’s face was priceless.
PP: Has having this system prevented anything major from happening (i.e., missing a dosage, making an error, incorrect decision)?
Most definitely! Anyone who is involved in Dad’s care can look at his medicine schedule and know what he is supposed to have and when.
PP: Thank you for sharing your experience and the templates with us.
Any time I can possibly help someone else’s life easier – especially organizing medical records – it makes me feel that I’m doing my part to make the world better.
To download the Excel templates, click these links:
Once they’re downloaded, save them to your hard drive and then customize them to fit your needs.
PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.