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5 Important Records Seniors Should Have On Hand

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5 Important Records Seniors Should Have On Hand

April is National Records and Info Management Month, which is a mouthful and sounds a bit tedious and boring. But it's an ideal time for seniors to ensure they have easy access to some of the paperwork that can make things easier in emergency situations or throughout daily life.

If you haven't given a look through your file cabinet or records drawer in a while, spring is the perfect season for this job. Handle the task during early spring, when some days are still too brisk for outdoor activity, and you can get your paperwork in order without feeling bad about missing time outdoors. And even if you don't have a penchant for organization or want to give your files a good dust off, it's a good idea to at least check that you have these important documents on hand.

1. Birth Certificate

Birth certificates are the passport you need to many benefits, making them fairly valuable pieces of paper for individuals of any age. But since that's all they are — pieces of paper — it's easy for them to go missing or be damaged. Seniors who don't currently have a copy of their birth certificate can typically remedy this issue fairly easily.

Birth certificates are considered a vital record, which means they are housed and handled by vital records offices in each state. Your birth certificate will be housed by the office in the state where you were born. You can find a list of links to these offices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each office has its own requirements for how records retrieval is handled, but you'll likely have to prove your identity and pay a small fee for a copy of your birth certificate. Because expedited delivery costs more, it's a good idea to replace any lost vital records when it's not an emergency.

2. Military Records, Particularly a DD214

Veterans should keep their military records on hand, particularly their DD214, which displays official discharge status. Because many veteran benefits require either honorable discharge or discharge other than dishonorable, this document is required by many provides to prove you are eligible for veteran benefits.

Seniors can request their military records online, via mail or in person at a National Personnel Records Center.

3. Legal Documents Related to Your Estate

Documents related to your estate can include your will, trusts and powers of attorney. These aren't necessarily documents you need to keep on hand in your own personal files, but you do want to ensure copies are housed with your lawyer (if you used one) and one or more trusted friends or family members.

4. Health Care Insurance Card

Your Medicare or other health care insurance cards will be required by most providers when you seek medical services. Keep these in your wallet or purse, and double check every so often that they are in the right place. It's much less of a hassle to discover you lost your Medicare card when you aren't at the doctor's office for a new patient appointment.

You can request a replacement Medicare card if yours is lost, destroyed or stolen. Meanwhile, it's a good idea to make a copy of your card (front and back) when you do have it and store it in a safe location. You can use the copy as proof of insurance at many providers while you wait for a new card to arrive.

5. Health Care Directive

Finally, if you have a health care directive — a legal documenting detailing your wishes for certain types of medical treatment — you'll want to keep a copy of that on hand and provide a copy to close family members and trusted medical providers. You may also ask the staff at The Gardens at Barry Road assisted living community if they can keep a copy on file. This document helps ensure your wishes for end-of-life care are followed, even if you're unable to communicate them.

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