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Organizing and Keeping Important Records

You’ll be keeping track of a great deal of important paperwork through your cancer journey. Keeping organized records will make life easier for you and your loved ones. If you don’t feel well enough to find and organize your records by yourself, ask a loved one or friend to help you.

Hands holding paperwork

The Livestrong Guidebook and Planner & Journal can help you get organized. Use it to keep track of medical reports, insurance records, correspondence and information about your type of cancer and treatment. You can carry this information with you to share with your health care team.

Keeping digital medical records allows you to store and access information easily. However, an organizing system can be as simple as a three-ring binder. Others use a filing cabinet. Use the system that works best for you.

1. Collect Important Records

Start by collecting and reviewing the documents and information that you already have, including:

  • Employment benefit records.
  • Insurance policies, receipts and other insurance records.
  • Social Security benefit records.
  • Health records including prescription receipts.
  • Personal financial records.
  • Advance medical care and financial directives.
  • Will, living trust and guardianship directives.
  • Copies of letters about your health care and insurance.
  • Records of telephone conversations that include dates, the name of the person you talked with and what was said.

Request copies of the important documents that you do not have. Arrange them in order by categories and by date. That way you will be able to quickly find information.

2. Store Legal Documents

Give copies of important legal documents directly to the person who is responsible for seeing that your wishes are followed. If you do not want to do that, tell them where you keep the copies. Also, keep a copy of these documents for yourself.

Store your documents in a safe place. Make sure that trusted loved ones or friends know where these documents are. They may also need to have access to a key and know how they can get to the documents if they are ever needed.

Here are suggestions about where to store some important documents:

  • Medical Directives: Give the original copy of all advance medical directives to your health care providers. Copies of your advance medical directives should be kept by you and the person you have chosen to act on your behalf in a medical emergency.
  • Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Guardianship, Financial Directives: Give the original copy of each of the above types of documents to your attorney. He or she will store them for you and your loved ones. Copies of these documents should be kept by you (include a note with your copy that states where the original is stored) and others who might be involved later such as the legal guardian for your children.

These types of documents should not be stored in your bank safe-deposit box. It would be difficult to get to them quickly in an emergency.

3. Store Medical Records

Keep a copy of all of your medical records so that you will have accurate details about your medical treatment. Share this information with your physician and other health care team members. This will help you to get the best health care.

Your health information can also be used when you prepare tax returns. It will be useful as you complete forms for insurance claims. In addition, these records can be used to document the need to request changes in your work schedule or job.

Medical Records and Health Information to Save

  • Medical records and receipts, invoices and statements for prescriptions, medical equipment and health care provider and hospital visits.
  • All contact information for your current and past health care team members.
  • Information about prescription and over-the-counter medications and vitamins.
  • Your medical treatment history that lists dates, diagnoses and treating health care providers.

4. Make a List of Instructions

A list of instructions can serve as a guide to your home, health, family, legal and financial matters. A trusted friend or loved one can use this information to pay bills and take care of your household in case of an emergency.

Your list of instructions should include all that is needed to keep your home and finances in order. Include a guide to your filing and record-keeping system. Some of the information in your list of instructions may be confidential.

Keep the following types of information in a safe place so that only a person you trust can get to it:

  • Banking and other financial information.
  • Credit card information.
  • Personal Identification Numbers (PINs).
  • Usernames and passwords to accounts.
  • Safe combination numbers.

Allow yourself the time you need to organize and store your records. You don’t have to do it all at one time. Ask someone you trust to help you if it becomes too overwhelming.

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