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Geriatric Medical Care

A number of complex health conditions can affect elders. To become more familiar with the issues and help anticipate health problems, the American Geriatrics Society offers an online publication called "Eldercare at Home: A Comprehensive Guide for Family Caregivers," specifically designed for family caregivers. The chapters are organized by symptoms and explain the possible health problems, as well as how to describe an elder's health conditions, behavior, and symptoms to a physician. For access to the free online book or to purchase the book, go to the Web site and click on "View Table of Contents." You can also purchase the book by calling 800-334-1429, ext. 2529.

Record Keeping

Elders are likely to have multiple health conditions, more than one doctor or specialist, and a variety of medications. The sheer volume and complexity of medical information is very difficult to keep track of, yet it's essential that you have accurate and up-to-date records that are easily accessible. You may want to create a notebook or folder containing names and phone numbers for all the health providers of the elder in your care, dates of major medical tests and/or surgeries, as well as a list of conditions, dietary restrictions, medications, and current dosages. It is also important to keep records of phone conversations with doctors and other providers or take notes when you visit.

The National Alliance for Caregiving has partnered with the National Family Caregivers Association to create a course called "Family Caregiving 101" to help caregivers communicate with health care providers and manage health care information. Visit the Web site and click on "How to Manage," then "Navigating the Health Care Maze." Eldercare at Home published by the American Geriatrics Society, is written for family caregivers and explains how to communicate effectively with doctors and other professionals as part of a caregiving support team. For more additional information, see Learning Caregiving Skills.

Monitoring Chronic Health Issues

Chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease may require daily care to monitor blood levels, dress wounds, or give injections. Family caregivers can get training and assistance in treating these conditions. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Council on Aging for help. Many chronic health conditions have their own national associations, such as the American Cancer Society or the American Diabetes Association. These organizations and their local chapters can provide training, caregiver support, and assistance. For more information see Learning Caregiving Skills.

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