Sunday, 1 June 2014

Live Well: Organise Your Life

It always amazes me the amount of paperwork and administration required to manage a complex medical condition.

Sadly (and annoyingly) my medical paperwork
takes up an entire drawer in the filing cabinet.
On a more positive note, all the information
 is in one place and easily retrieved.

More than just appointments, there are forms to be filled in – forms, forms, forms! Every new specialist or clinic usually requires a form to be filled in with all the same information as all the other clinics; e.g. personal details, medical record ID and insurance policy numbers, lists of previous investigations or surgeries, medications, allergies, doctors’ names and numbers etc. The repetition is tedious.

If you have permanent or long-term disability or illness which prevents full time employment, applications for social security payments require not only forms to be filled in, but copies of documents, letters from doctors etc. to support your claim.
I made this felt slip cover for an A5 day-to-a-page diary.
It is instantly recognisable and hard to lose with
its bright colours although it is looking worn now
after years of daily use and many washes.

I keep all of my pertinent information in a brightly coloured diary.  All of the standard information is kept as a word processing file, easy to edit and ready to be reprinted and stuck into each year’s diary.  

If I have to present to the emergency department at the hospital, the staff can look in the diary and find everything they need at a time when I am least able to communicate my needs.
The slip cover creates a pocket on each inside cover.
The back pocket stores prescription forms while the
front pocket stores appointment cards and referral letters.
 Believe me, the staff will thank you! All they need to do is to quickly photocopy the page(s) for each person who needs the information and it is all there, up to date. It allows them to treat me properly as quickly as possible.

The distinctive bright colour makes the diary stand out from the rest of hospital paperwork and can be easily seen and identified so as not to get lost or left behind, especially when transferring between beds or hospital departments.

If you require support workers or nursing staff to provide extra support in the home, your home will become ‘a workplace’ as well as being ‘your home’.  You may need to reorganise your home and your lifestyle to accommodate the needs of your support people as well as yourself.

Perhaps your caregiver is a friend, family member or volunteer. There are ways to organise your household to minimise chaos and reduce the stress on everyone.

Get organised

A tidy and organised home makes it easier (and safer!) for caregivers
  • Add labels to cupboards, drawers, storage boxes etc. where necessary to aid caregivers and visitors to find items and also keep them organised
  • Organise all medical documentation and keep care plans, doctors’ letters, referrals, test results, x-rays etc. together.
Rotary Clubs provide this booklet
for the price of a small donation.
  • Keep emergency medical information in a prominent place. My local ambulance service has a magnetic booklet which stays on the fridge. It contains information about medical history, current conditions, medication, doctors' names and contact numbers, next of kin, health insurance and medicare numbers etc.
This bag is permanently packed with basic
hospital supplies with room for extras.
A bright colour makes it easy to find and look after.
There are many pockets to keep everything
organised and within easy reach.

  • If you regularly go to hospital, have a bag already packed with duplicate toiletries, regular medications, emergency information and other necessities so there is no last minute packing in an emergency. (You may include a crochet mag to stem hospital boredom when you feel a bit better!) Make a note for the 'ambos' with your emergency list on the fridge so they know which bag to pick up and where to find it.
  • Obtain copies of your medical records if necessary for future reference.
  • Have a childproof medicine cabinet. Review it at regular intervals to ensure medications are not out of date or obsolete.
NPS Medicines List is small enough to carry in
a handbag and a protective sleeve keeps it clean.
  • The National Prescribing Service in Australia provides a format for a free Medicines List to help you keep track of your medication. It is available to order in many languages as a 'hard copy' form with a clear protective sleeve or it can be downloaded as a PDF file or smartphone application. There is also an 'eList' service if you wish to use and save your list online.
The NPS Medicines List folds out to reveal
medication details.
  • Administration of medication can be easier by using a ‘dosette’ pill organiser or ‘Webster pack’.  Most pharmacies offer this service.
  • Ask your pharmacy about the services on offer. My pharmacy sends text reminders when a new prescription is due to be filled so that I can get the medication before the prescription expires. Some pharmacies will keep patients’ prescriptions on file so that patients can request them to be made up over the phone and home delivered.
  • Read books about household organisation for useful tips.
This list may seem like a lot of work. Think of it as an investment of time and energy now to save you a lot of time and energy in the future.


Ewer, Cynthia Townley, Cut the Clutter: speed your cleaning and calm the chaos, ISBN-13: 978-1-40531-145-8, ISBN-10: 1-40531-145-2, Dorling Kindersley Ltd,, 80 The Strand, London WC2R 0RL, United Kingdom, Penguin Group (UK), 2006.

Lorig, Holman, Sobel, Laurent, Gonzalez, Minor et al, Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions: self management of heart disease, arthritis, stroke, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and others, ISBN: 0-923521-28-3, Bull Publishing, Palo Alto CA, USA, 1994.

Medicines List, see National Prescribing Service

National Prescribing Service Limited, an independent, non-profit organisation for 'Quality Use of Medicines' funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, PO Box 1147, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012, Australia.

Organized Home,, clean house, cut clutter, get organized at home, Cynthia Ewer, Threadneedle Press LLC, 1998-2014.


  1. That makes a lot of sense Jodiebodie and I imagine that it also helps one feel more in control too.
    Tracey xxx

    1. You have touched on a common concern, Tracey.

      Control is an important issue on both emotional and practical levels.

      Chronic illness and disability can remove a lot of control in life that most people take for granted, especially if the medical condition is difficult to control; e.g. if it is hard to even control one's body, having control of other parts of life becomes very important.

      Sometimes the need to feel 'in control' manifests in a person trying to control and manipulate the other people around them. I have seen that situation many times and think it's extremely unhealthy for everyone involved. That's why it is important to control what you can, be able to let go of what you can't (control) and to communicate effectively.

      On a practical level, it is important to have control of one's own medical information. Nobody knows your body like you. You are probably the only person to have 'been there' for your entire medical journey. Doctors and nurses don't all know what you know about your individual situation. Sometimes records have errors, inaccuracies or omissions and sometimes records get lost. If the doctor who knows all about you is suddenly unavailable, who is going to advocate for your care? YOU!

      For personal safety, it is important to keep your own records, view any other records about your care to check them for accuracy and to keep your care team appropriately informed.