Documents Every COPDer Should Have - Part 1
Editor's note: this is part 1 of a two-part series. Be sure to check out part 2 as well!
I have been asked several times what medical documents those of us with COPD should have and how do they go about preparing them. The first document I feel everyone with COPD or any other chronic illness should have is a medical information sheet.
Medical Information Sheet:
If you have a medical information sheet and keep it on/near you at all times (I have one in my purse and one on my refrigerator), it will make 911 calls, trip to the emergency room/hospital, and doctor visits a lot easier. When we have to call 911 or make a trip to the emergency room, we all know how annoying it is when you can't breathe and you have what seems like a million people asking you questions. Things like what medication you take, your doctor's name, have you had any operations, and many other questions concerning your condition. If you have that information prepared in advance, all you have to do is give them the sheet of paper and go back to concentrating on your breathing.
All medical sheets should have certain information on them, here's how I've done my medical information paper:
- I start with my name, address, phone number, insurance information, and Social Security number
- Next I list any medical conditions I'm being treated for and any operations I've had.
- Then on the left side of the paper in a column I list the medications I take, the doses, and when I take them.
- On the right side of the paper I list the different doctors I go to, (such as my GP, pulmonologist, and cardiologist), their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Next, below the list of medications, written in large red letters, are all the medications I am allergic to or had any negative reaction to, I also list any allergies I have.
- For most, the last thing you would have on your paper is the name, address, and phone number of your contact person. This can be a medical power of attorney (if you have one), or any trusted friend or relative. My contact is my stepdaughter.
- However, for those of you like me who have signed DNR forms, the last thing I have on my medical information paper in very large red letters is DO NOT RESUSCITATE!
Stapled to my medical information form is my up-to-date signed DNR form. Not only does this medical information form make visits to the ER or doctors easier, but if you have an accident or become unconscious for any reason, your medical information sheet will give any responders the information they need to deal with your condition in a more efficient manner.
After a medical information sheet you should now consider a living will or an advance directive if you would rather call it. A living will is a document in which you can let it be known to all what your wishes are concerning your medical treatment should you become incapacitated, unconscious or cannot speak for yourself.
A living will is your way of remaining in control of your medical treatment and if your wishes are written down it can stop a lot of family arguments when different members of the family are opposed to the manner in which you are being treated. It also lets your medical power of attorney know what to do and what you do not want done (although your medical power of attorney does not have to follow your living will).
I have chosen not to have the medical power of attorney as I want all my medical decision kept in my own hands, so I have an ironclad living will. I have gone over in my mind every scenario that could possibly come into play with my medical conditions and in my medical will I have addressed each one individually. My living will says what has to be done if I go into respiratory or cardiac arrest, if I become unconscious and unable to speak for myself, when all medications and life support of any form is to be discontinued even knowing it will hasten my death. I have said when to turn off my oxygen and leave me in the hands of God.
Each one of my doctors and every hospital I've ever been in has a copy of my living will in my file. I also carry one on me at all times in case something happens when I'm out of town. My living will has been signed by my doctors, two witnesses and notarized. If you have a medical power of attorney those precautions are not necessary as you should have made your medical power of attorney in charge of what medicines and treatments you are or are not to be given.
So if you choose to have a medical power of attorney make sure they are willing to follow your wishes concerning your medical condition. Such as, if you want your organs donated, or your body donated to science. Another reason why I do not have a medical power of attorney and have all my wishes listed in my living well is to prevent any family squabbles or arguments over my care as I do not want to put any of my loved ones in a position where they have to pull the plug. My living will does that for them. I lived my life on my own terms and I will die the same way.
If you are going to have a medical power of attorney the time to do it is now before they are needed; the same goes for a living will when you have a chronic condition. You need to discuss with members of your family what you do and do not want done and then you write it down in a living will it stops a lot of family arguments - I know, I've been there and seen that too many times. Because of my feelings about not wanting ever to be put on life support again my living will is set up in such a way only a court order can change it.
So if you know for sure what you want at end-of-life and have a living will, make sure all your doctors and hospitals have a copy. It will take a lot of strain and stress off of you and your family if you pick a medical power of attorney and have a living will. You can find free forms for your state for Living Will and power of attorney at this site.
Breathe deep and easy.
This is part 1 of a two-part series. Be sure to check out part 2 as well!
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on March 2, 2018, Mary Ultes passed away. Mary was an engaged advocate for the COPD community who strived to help people live fulfilling lives. She is deeply missed.
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