You wake up in the middle of the night overcome with excruciating chest pain. You call 911, and an ambulance rushes you to the emergency room. Now what? Although your physical well-being is now in the hands of capable medical professionals, who is going to take care of your household, your bills, and your pets? This is exactly why you need a medical emergency plan.
By creating a medical emergency plan, you can make decisions in advance about how you want your personal matters to be handled if you are hospitalized. Not only can you specify what needs to be done, but you can also choose which people you want to carry out these duties.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you create your medical emergency plan:
Choose trustworthy money managers.
This is the first step to building an effective medical emergency plan. If you were too sick to pay your bills and oversee your other financial affairs, who would take care of it for you? Make that decision right now, while you are healthy and alert. Make a list of family members, friends, or professionals that you would trust to manage your financial matters if you couldn’t do it yourself. Be sure to provide a copy of this list to your attorney. Unfortunately, there are plenty of malicious “caregivers” out there who take advantage of sick people by offering to handle their finances — and then drain their bank accounts. If you make a list of reliable money managers in advance, you’ll be less likely to fall victim to this type of fraud.
Put it in writing.
As with any other type of protection plan, it’s important to put your medical emergency plan in writing. Be sure to give detailed instructions about who you want to handle your personal matters and how they should go about doing it. Be specific: Make it clear that your sister Jane should handle your household chores, your brother Bob should pay your bills, and your best friend Sherry should feed your pets. Give step by step instructions to each of these friends or family members on how to complete these tasks. Once you’ve typed up these instructions, be sure to tell your family members and friends where they can find the document. You might want to provide a copy to a trusted family member or your attorney.
Update your emergency contact info.
When you go to a new doctor for the first time, they generally ask you for a list of emergency contacts. How long has it been since you last updated this information? Phone numbers could have changed, family members might have moved, or you might no longer be on speaking terms with some of the contacts. Make sure that your doctors have the most up-to-date emergency contact information on file. This will ensure that they can get in touch with the right person quickly should there be a sudden emergency. You should also include an emergency phone number in your cell phone address book. For example, if your husband is your preferred emergency contact, program his cell phone number as “ICE” in your cell phone. “ICE” stands for “In Case of Emergency.” If you are in an accident, paramedics are trained to call the ICE number on your phone.
List doctors and medications.
You should also include a list of your current doctors and medications as part of your medical emergency plan. This information might be crucial if you were to suffer from a medical emergency. Make sure that your spouse, sibling, or another designated person can provide this list quickly to emergency workers if and when necessary. That way, ER doctors could obtain your medical history from your doctor’s office and they’ll also know which medications you are currently taking.
Take care of the legal documents.
If you want to develop a truly effective medical emergency plan, you’ll also need to put together these basic legal documents:
- A Living Will or Advanced Health Care Directives
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- A Financial Power of Attorney
Talk to an attorney about putting together these important documents.
Talk to your family and friends.
So, you’ve already taken the time to put an emergency medical plan in place. Good for you. However, your plan is worth nothing if your family and friends don’t know about it.
Take the time to sit down with your loved ones and discuss your plan. Although this is never an easy topic to broach, it’s important that your family and friends understand what you would want to happen in the case of a medical emergency.