The other day I was complaining to a friend that I receive 200 emails every single day. (Last year it was around 150 and I got about 100 per day just a few years ago. What’s going on?) I can’t read them all, answer the ones that need it and get much else done. I was picking my friend’s brain, looking for ways to manage them. There have to be an app for that, right?
Turns out that sorting through information and figuring out what’s important is pretty familiar territory. It’s what parents who have complicated kids, with mental health needs or other health needs, do day in and week out.
By the time my son turned 16, he had been through 34 different medications or combinations of meds. I’m a little stunned just writing that, but say it in a room full of parents whose kids have mental health needs and it’s not too unusual. Kids simply don’t react to medications in the same way adults do and there’s a lot of trial and error that goes on. When you have a child like mine, whose reactions to medication are only listed in the fine print of the accompanying paperwork, you go through those trials with lots of errors.
I began keeping a paper list, with the names of medications and dosages. Later I added notes like, “made his hands shake” or “he was sleepy all the time.” Even later, I would rate medications like this, “4 stars – helps his focus at school” or “3 stars – his mood is better, but he’s still sad at times.” The list turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.
Each time my son had a new therapist or pediatrician or dentist and they asked “What medications does your son take?” I had to have that list on hand. First, I backtracked and created a list, then updated it every few months. When I was asked for a list of his diagnoses or what worked and what didn’t, I was often the one who had that information too. Gathering information, organizing it and passing it on requires attention to detail and great management skills. 200 emails a day should seem (ahem) like child’s play, shouldn’t it?
Parents simply don’t get enough credit for being the keepers of crucial information. We keep lists showing our child’s medical and educational history. We keep notes to remind us of what worked and what didn’t. We keep old addresses, in case we need them someday. We have well organized notebooks and shoeboxes stuffed with papers we’re going to file soon. We have notes on our phones and pictures on our tablets. So far, there’s no app for that.
Lots of doctors and therapists are using electronic records to record and store health and mental health information. Many parents have high hopes for that. It means everyone on your child’s health team will have the same information. It means that someone else besides us will be keeping our children’s health history and all those lists. But there’s a glitch. Sometimes one medical practice uses this software to keep records and the next one uses that one. It’s similar to either choosing Turbotax or H&R Block to file your taxes. Both work great but they can’t talk to one another. That can mean the records aren’t easy to share and parents are back to relying on their homemade lists.
I have a few apps I’m going to try to manage my way-too-many emails. So far, I haven’t found an app to duplicate what I do with my son’s health and mental health information. I haven’t given up hope though. Maybe soon there will be an app for that.