While many seniors enjoy good health and are able to live on their own, some require the assistance of family members or outside caregivers, or have to move to an assisted living facility. No matter what your role is in helping a senior, even if it's to be a friend to someone caring for a senior, here are some organizing tips to help make the job a bit easier.

Organize medical information for doctor's appointments. Because seniors are often under the care of several doctors who may not communicate with each other, it can be helpful to bring complete medical information along to each doctor's appointment. This information might include test results, medication information, notes from visits to other doctors, etc. To make it easy to transport this information, consider storing it in a portable container such as an accordion file or a three-ring binder. Label the sections of the container with category names that will make it easy to quickly find any necessary information.
Organize medical bills. Since medical bills and insurance explanations of benefits (EOBs) aren't typically needed at the doctor's office, keep these items in a separate filing system, such as file folders in a filing cabinet or file box. You can staple the EOBs to the corresponding bill and file them according to the date of service or the name of the service provider. Although I don't like to create extra paperwork, if the EOB contains service for multiple providers or multiple dates, it's often easiest to make duplicate copies of the EOB so that the corresponding bill and EOB can easily be filed together.

Organize other information. Think about which facts besides medical information someone would need to know in an emergency, and gather this information in an appropriately labeled binder. Store this information in a secure place, and let family members or other appropriate people know where to find it. Items to consider include:

Contacts - names and phone numbers of family members, close friends, accountant, lawyer, household help, etc.

Financial - name of each financial institution and corresponding account numbers, safe deposit box and key location, regularly recurring bills, account numbers, and payment information

Insurance - include contact information for policy providers and location of the policies if not included here

Legal - Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney for Health Care, Will, etc. Note that appropriate people such as the named executor should have copies of these documents as well.

Take care of yourself and ask for help. It can be physically and emotionally draining to care for a senior. No matter how challenging your circumstances are, remember that it is never appropriate to be physically or verbally abusive. Be sure to give yourself regular time away from the situation by enlisting the help of:
Friends and family members - They can help with grocery shopping, transportation, errands, housework, cooking, etc.

Respite care provider - They give temporary care while you take a break from the daily routine of care giving.

State and local social service agencies

Support group of eldercare providers - Check out The National Family Caregivers Association http://www.nfcacares.org and the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers http://www.caremanager.org

Professional organizer - I can help organize all of the senior's paperwork and set up the home for safety and ease of use. I also have access to lots of resources who can provide additional help.

Keep the proper perspective. Although emotions can often muddy the boundaries of what the caretaker's role is, it's typically to provide assistance to the senior so he or she can live as independently as possible. Keep in mind that unless the senior is declared mentally incompetent, they probably have the right to make unwise decisions with which you may disagree. Although it may be difficult, you may just have to stand by and let them experience the outcome of their bad choices.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.