Essential Paperwork All Seniors Need

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When your parent is facing an emergency situation, the last thing you want to be doing is scrambling to locate essential documentation in an overflowing file cabinet or standing in line at a government office trying to obtain official copies of lost documents. When emergency strikes, moments matter. In a crisis, you should be able to quickly lay your hands on copies of all important personal, health, financial, and end-of-life records.

Official documents aren’t just necessary in emergencies. Many other situations common in a senior’s life require ready access to these documents, such as moving to a new senior living community, applying for benefits, and selling a home. Ideally you will have photocopies and/or a list of where to locate the originals for each of the documents outlined below.


Personal identification documents are frequently required when applying for benefits, insurance, and other state or federal assistance. Being unable to locate important personal records can delay or even cause your loved one to be denied certain benefits, like Medicaid or veterans.

-        Birth certificate
-        Driver’s license
-        Social security card
-        Passport
-        Marriage certificate
-        Divorce papers
-        Military records
-        List of online usernames and passwords
-        Keys to safe deposit boxes


When you have an aging parent, you may need to make a trip to the hospital without any warning. Sometimes seniors may become incapacitated to communicate consent or make decisions. In that situation, it’s crucial to have essential documentation on hand proving that you have authority to make decisions on their behalf. Health records can also be lifesaving during a medical emergency.

-        Healthcare proxy
-        Authorization to release healthcare information
-        Personal medical history
-        Insurance policies
-        Medicare/Medicaid/insurance cards
-        Living will (advance healthcare directive)


Many people are guardedly private about their financial circumstances, even with close family members. That’s okay. But it’s important for family members to have access to an aging parent’s financial information, even if exact numbers remain private until necessary.

-        List of all bank and credit accounts, with login credentials for online access
-        Credit cards
-        Pension documents and 401(k) information
-        Tax returns
-        Property deeds and mortgage records
-        Vehicle title and registration
-        Documentation of loans and debts
-        Durable power-of-attorney
-        Savings bonds and stock certificates

End-of-Life/Estate Planning

The death of a family member is a painful process, made all the more so by all the practical responsibilities required to settle their affairs. This process can be made easier by organizing as much as possible beforehand, making sure important documents have been drawn up and that others are readily accessible.

-        Will
-        Legal power of attorney
-        Desired funeral arrangements
-        Trust documents
-        Life insurance policies
-        Organ donor card

Want to learn more about how to put your affairs in order? On Wednesday, October 12, Gail Radke of the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging is hosting a free event on the topic at Redwood Area Community Center. Event details below.

Putting Your Affairs in Order – What Your Family Needs to Know
Wednesday, October 12, 9:30 am
Redwood Community Center

What would happen if you suddenly became sick or disabled? Would your family be easily able to take care of all or your affairs? Would all of your important paper be easy to find? Learn how to organize your important phone numbers, and personal information, investments, contracts, insurance policies, bank accounts, instructions on your memorial and burial desires and more. Presented by Gail Radke, Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging and Karen Christensen, A.C.E. of SW Minnesota.

Reach out to the staff at your community if you would like to attend this free event!

For more information, contact:

Karen Christensen, A.C.E. of SW Minnesota, 627-1016
Wendy Dahl, Redwood Area Hospital, 637-4527

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