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Keep a family health care record

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Organize medical details

Have you considered keeping a family health care record or journal? If anyone had told me before I had kids how familiar I would become with emergency rooms, I don't think I would have believed them. If ERs gave out frequent-visitor punch cards, ours would most certainly be full by now, with three kids and my klutzy tendencies. From minor to major, we've experienced quite a bit in terms of medical and dental care -- so much, in fact, that I think I've forgotten some of it.

Mom with Medical RecordsMost recently, my oldest son broke his wrist playing soccer. The doctor asked some medical history questions, which I answered. Only later did we remember some bits of medical history from years ago -- thankfully, nothing that affected that day's care. It was then I resolved to do something I'd thought about for years: Create and maintain a health care diary for the family.

Life is full, and so may be your brain

It's not a bad thing, really. With a full life comes a full brain. As time passes and families grow, details pass out of our immediate consciousness. Events may merge in your mind. Which child had the broken toe? Who had chicken pox first? Has everyone had that vaccine?

Most of this information is recorded in one way or another, scattered among medical records at your pediatrician's office or on insurance forms. It would be so much handier, though, to have it all in one place. When you need to take your child to the doctor for a regular or emergent visit, you could grab the book and have relevant information at your fingertips -- and record new information on the fly. Over time, such a diary may even help you see patterns and address ongoing and developing issues. For example, my younger son gets this rash on his face intermittently and seemingly out of the blue (we've never been able to attribute it to food, for example). If I'd been keeping this diary all along, I'd have recorded each time he got the rash and might have identified a pattern by now.

Compiling the details

First of all, you need a blank book -- a sturdy journal type. Divide the book into sections: One for general information and one for each member of the family.

In the general information section, write down current insurance information and contact information for primary care doctors, preferred medical centers and such. Give yourself a few pages -- insurance and doctor information changes every once in a while, and you need room to cross out and enter the new info. Make sure you date each entry, too. For each member of the family, start with the full name, birth date and birth information, then move on to vaccine dates, illnesses, medications, reactions to medications, injuries and so on. If you can't remember everything, check with your doctor to fill in information over time. This book doesn't have to be complete in an afternoon. You can include dental information, optical exams and any other relevant pieces of information for each person. Leave yourself plenty of space for information to come.

Keep it safe but accessible

The information in your family health care diary is important; treat it with care and respect. It's not something you want to lose -- but you need access to it, too. While I would never put Social Security numbers in the book, there's a fair bit of identifying information in there. I'll keep my diary in a safe, accessible place in my desk for reference and updating, and I won't leave it out.

With all the family details I manage, keeping a health care diary for the family makes sense to me. It is something I resolve to do -- before we punch that ER frequent-visitor card again.

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