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Author: Suzanne KuhnGeneral Home Organizing Special Needs

Organizing for a Person Who Visits Doctors Frequently

When my mother died in June 2007, my father came to live with me.  He had advanced cases of prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and my life soon became a whirlwind of visits to doctors, hospitals, and testing facilities.  I quickly discovered that these visits were much easier to manage when I developed a one-page summary of all Dad’s pertinent medical information that I could hand the health care providers at each facility.

Do you have medical conditions that cause you to doctor frequently?  Do you care for someone who does?  Then you, too, would benefit from a brief document listing all of your diagnoses, drugs and doctors.  Use your favorite word-processing program and include the following:

Contact Information

  • The patient’s full legal name (important for Medicare and other medical assistance programs), street address, home phone, cell phone and email address.  Dad didn’t have an email address, but I provided everything else.
  • If the patient has given anyone a Health Care Power of Attorney, give that person’s same full contact information too, along with the indication that they are Health Care POA.  In my case, this was my brother.
  • If the patient has a regular caregiver who should be contacted with updates or reports, give that person’s full contact information as well.  On Dad’s summary, this was me.

Diagnoses

  • List each condition for which the patient has a formal diagnosis from a physician.  If you can, include the diagnostic billing code, obtainable from the billing department of the doctor who made the diagnosis.  Also include the date of diagnosis if you know it.  Even noting only the year can be helpful.  Dad’s diagnoses included prostate cancer and Parkinson’s; they also included medication-related depression, Parkinson’s-related dementia, and prostate-related urinary incontinence.  The point here is to note secondary conditions, too.  They all have a bearing on the patient’s treatment.

Medications

  • List each drug the patient is taking, along with the dosage and frequency.  Example:  “Levaquin, 500 mg., 2x/daily.” Later, if a medication is removed, leave it on the list with a note “Discontinued, [date.]”  It’s all about sharing useful information.

Doctors

  • List the name, address, telephone number and specialty of each and every physician the patient sees, including their primary care physician.  Doctors often send reports to the other physicians treating their patients, and this information simplifies that process.
  • If your patient has multiple medical conditions, as my father did, it can be challenging to fit all the information on one page.  Fiddle with font sizes, margins, spacing, and the use of tabs and columns to try and get everything on one sheet.  What is true for employment seekers’ resumes is just as true for patients’ resumes:  The more concise they are, the more likely they will get read and used.

Store the document on your computer, and update after each medical visit that causes a change in the information. Create a header or footer with the notation “Updated [date.]” Print out a fresh, updated copy for each new medical visit. Keep a couple of current copies on hand for “grab and go” situations like emergency room visits and ambulance transports.

Throughout the two years I cared for my father, I was told over and over again by doctors, nurses, billing clerks, testing technicians and others how helpful this information was, and how much time it saved them as they cared for Dad.  In turn, it gave me satisfaction to know that I was doing something concrete and beneficial for my father.  This can be so important for the caregiver facing the discouragement of tending to someone with a difficult, chronic or terminal illness.

Author: Annette ReymanClutter General Home Organizing

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This June my husband and I were fortunate enough to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  In preparation for this milestone, I decided to organize the last 25 years worth of photos.  Some were already stored in albums.  I must admit, however, that somewhere before the halfway mark of our quarter century the momentum was lost and batches of photographs found their way into drawers, boxes and bags, randomly scattered throughout the house.

True to the saying, a single glance at a photo of an early vacation or one of the kids with a missing tooth was enough to elicit warm memories and funny stories – a thousand words.

Wait, a thousand words?  Too bad they’re not worth a thousand dollars!  It seemed like I had millions of them – and that’s excluding the digitals.

In a recent training on organizing and preserving photos I learned that in situations involving home-evacuation, pictures rank second only to living things (people and pets) for what we want rescued.  If these precious and priceless memories are counted among our dearest and most prized possessions, finding a better way to keep them might be worth the effort.

Thanks to my recent endeavor, I am happy to report that the process for organizing photos is more fun and less painful than I had imagined (mind you, I had avoided this for over a dozen years and what I had imagined was not pretty).  Since my experience was a pleasant one, I would like to share the process that took me and my memories from random chaos to easy-to -find, -use, and -share treasures.  I suggest tackling the task through four steps: Gather, Sort, Scan, and Store.

Gather:

  • a photo-labeling pencil or pen to mark dates on the back of your photos
  • photo-safe storage boxes (or shoe boxes)
  • Index cards for dividers
  • ALL of your printed photos

Sort:

Unless you have a deadline, two hours once or twice a week works well for this step.

  • Mark the date on the envelope
  • Flip through the pictures – throw away any that you don’t want, return duplicates to the envelope and write the date on the backs of the keepers
  • Put the photos and an index card dated by year into one of your storage boxes

Whatever your objective – whether you are looking to create albums for each of your children, vacation or anniversary albums – I found that organizing by year gave me the most flexibility and easiest search-ability later on.

Scan:

There are certainly ways of doing this process yourself.  You could use your home scanner if you have one, bring them in batches to scan at a local store or buy some type of bulk photo scanning machine.  But, if you are facing years of photographs like I was, I highly suggest paying to have them bulk-scanned by a reputable company.  There are several online companies that will accept your boxed photos and send them back to you along with CDs of all the scanned pictures.  I personally used a local company, SaveMyPix.com.  The prices are reasonable, they are timely and reliable and Max, the owner, picked them up and delivered them back to my doorstep.  If you consider that you may wish to keep one to two hundred per year and multiply that by the number of years you are sorting through, bulk-scanning is well worth the money.

Store:

Finally, once you have all your photos on discs, you can decide how you’d like to “store” them.  You may want to choose some to make into digitally-printed photo albums like the kinds offered by companies like Snapfish.com.  Or you might want to organize them by person or event and break them down into multiple CD’s to make as gifts or screen-savers.  You can also upload them to an online storage company to save in case something happens to your own discs.

In the end, I guarantee that the results of your effort will put a smile on your face worthy of a thousand words!

Author: Vali HeistClutter Garage Organizing

Organize that garage!

Garages tend to become the dumping ground during the winter. But the best thing about organizing the garage is that if we do a really good job, it usually stays that way for at least a year. In reality, families use garages as storage facilities rather than a place for the car. That stuff can include obsolete electronics, delayed decisions about where to put something, overflow from the house, and unneeded building supplies. Since the whole family probably uses the garage, bring everyone together and make it a family affair. Let’s break it down:

Start with a clean slate and unclutter

  • Pull everything out onto the driveway if you can. Sweep it out and eliminate the cobwebs.
  • As you pull items out, sort them by categories:
    • lawn and gardening, work bench, sports equipment, dry goods overflow, car accessories, tools and power equipment, paints/solvents, lawn furniture, beach items, camping, etc.
  • Talk to your children about their items and help them eliminate clutter. Consider having a garage sale to sell their unneeded toys.
  • Finish or get rid of the unfinished projects (two years old or more).
  • Find a new home for stuff that shouldn’t be stored in an uninsulated garage (e.g. photographs, items that could melt).
  • Eliminate duplicates and donate unneeded tools, doors, windows, appliances, or anything to build a house to Habitat for Humanity in your area.
  • Take hazardous waste items (e.g. oil-based paint) to local semi-annual cleanups.

Stay in the Zone

  • Divide the garage into zones according to the categories you’ve established.
  • Think “grab and go” and store things where they are convenient.
  • Hang tools where they are most accessible.
  • Keep car accessories close to the cars.
  • Store overflow from the kitchen close to the door near the house.
  • Reposition some zones as the seasons fluctuate: move bikes, beach items and lawn furniture down in spring and move the skis and sleds up high.

Type of storage/system

  • Put big items back first and the rest goes around those items.
  • Think ‘up’: store infrequently used items on high floating shelves or beams.
  • Metal on cement will rust the metal. Rest metal on wood or up on the wall.
  • Studs with no dry wall are great for peg boards. Cut different sizes according to the types of stuff you have.
  • Use open wire epoxy-coated steel shelving: wet things can dry, mesh prevents dust.
  • Consider a garage storage system. Search the Web or go to Lowe’s or Home Depot.
  • Use different colored plastic bins for different zones so it’s easier to put them away.
  • Hang long things vertically so they take up less space. If garden tools don’t have a hole to hang, drill one.
  • Remix things you may already have: Use old drawers/cabinets, shoe bag on the wall to hold small garden tools, old table for work bench, etc.

Finally, if you enter your home through the garage make sure it’s clutter-free and welcoming. Hang a welcome home sign, clean the door, and put a nice door mat in place. You deserve a nice welcome home!

And remember: “Every time you put something back where it belongs, it’s a gift to yourself.”