Sunday, July 29, 2012

An indispensable planner for caregivers


When she was eighteen, local author Tory Zellick became the primary caregiver for her mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. "The next six and a half years," Zellick writes, "were filled with doctor appointments, surgical procedures, tests, scans, and treatments." She was "the official 'form-filler-outer.' We made the best of every day; she continued to be positive and instilled hope in our family. Her strength and the incredible journey we made together as a family unit shaped who my brother, father, and I have become."

Her death in 2009 led Zellick to rethink the care process and she realized what she lacked was a "fill-in-the-blank guide to track Mom's care" to lessen stress on the caregiver. "A caregiver is only as useful to the person they are caring for as they are to themselves." A caregiver's ability to help diminishes without adequate sleep, exercise, proper food--and readily accessible medical information.

Zellick's experience led her to create "The Medical Day Planner: The Guide To Help Navigate The Medical Maze" ($34.95 spiral bound from Victory Belt Publishing). She will be appearing at Lyon Books in Chico tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. and caregivers, especially, are invited to attend this free event.

The book is divided into tabbed sections including patient information, phone book, medications, appointments, treatment, history, hospitalizations, and notes. The last section is devoted to the 52-week day planner, each day divided into 15-minute segments, that can organize caregiver "shifts," for example, or medical processes ("8:15 drink contrast; 9:15 arrive at hospital for scan"). Zellick introduces each section and offers examples of how it can be used. Her tone is positive but frank. Documentation is essential in discovering patterns or trends in the health of the one being cared for, and vital when new doctors or new hospitals become part of the caring process.

Because it's spiral bound, the planner opens flat so entries are easy to make. Many of its pages contain practical tips, such as the importance of using the "medication pickup chart" to track who is picking up which medication when. She also discusses financial affairs, trusts vs. wills, attorneys, and medical insurance brokers.

The planner and its website ( are essential companions for those who seek to provide compassionate and effective care.

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