Whether or not you’re new to caregiving, it’s a good idea to have these items in place.

Get a health-care proxy or durable health-care power of attorney. The health-care proxy appoints you as the one who will carry out wishes and make health-care decisions if/when the person becomes incapable of doing so. It also gives you legal standing with the medical team. AARP provides free forms, organized by state. Go to AARP.org and search “advance directive forms.” 

Compile a complete health-care folder. Include the advance directive…power of attorney…Social Security number…patient insurance ID number…complete contact information for doctors, pharmacy and close relatives…health records…lists of all medications and supplements, including why they’re taken and the dosages. 

Access to online electronic ­patient portal. If available, these secure medical- and hospital-network websites allow you to view test results, ask questions of affiliated doctors, make appointments and pay bills. Get a proxy access request and ­authorization form from the medical network, and ask the patient to sign it and submit it. 

Stay on top of drug risks. Keep the list of medications and supplements up to date. Review side effects with the doctor at each appointment and question possible interactions if a new item is prescribed. For at-home research, AARP’s free online drug-­interaction checker can aid in identifying potential risks. HealthTools.AARP.org/drug-interactions

Locate additional resources. Community-based organizations are essential for support and resources for families of elderly people. State offices for the aging are located in towns and counties throughout the country. Go to the Department of Health and Human Services website, HHS.gov/aging, and click on “Resources Near You” to find a link to your state’s offerings.

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