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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prepping For: A Medical Disaster


I stopped into a client's office last week. As usual, I had a great conversation with his office manager who has been like a fixture in his office for nearly a decade. She is always there, morning to night, any time I stop by. She runs everything smoothly and effortlessly, she is a relatively young 40-something, and everyone relies on her--her kids, her husband, her extended family, the people in the office, and especially my client--she's like his right arm.

Fast forward to Sunday morning when I get a panicked call from my client (also a friend) saying that his assistant had had a massive stroke and had been flown to a Boston-area hospital and would I want to meet him there since I happened to be in the city this week. Of course I met him at the ER then checked back in with him the following day and found that the lady was still in a coma with a not-good prognosis.

If you would have asked me last week about the lady, I would have said that she looked like she would live to 90, now it looks like she may not make it through the week. The lesson here is that, like everything else we prep for, prepping for a medical emergency is something that needs to be done now, while we are still able to do it. Here's how:
  • Make sure that you have an updated Will, Living Will, and Medical Power of Attorney (where people can find them!).
  • Life and disability insurance is something that everyone who has debts/dependants should have.
  • If you don't have debt or dependants and have the cash available so that your next of kin can pay for your funeral, you may not need life insurance but disability insurance is a good idea for every adult. Health insurance is a must.
  • Although you/your staff/your spouse may be indispensable, the things that they know how to do shouldn't be a mystery to you/your spouse/your other staffers. Job action sheets or a Standard Operating Procedure manual are a good idea, both for your home and your business.
  • Cross training is also another good idea. I have seen small businesses where the one person who knew how to write paychecks was out ill/in the hospital/fired/etc and no one else knew how to do paychecks. Not something you want to try to figure out on a Friday afternoon with employees chomping at the bit. This goes for home-type activities as well. If there is something that the spouse "always does", you should probably learn how to do it as well.
  • Having a BOB at home and a BOB in the car for each family member is always a good idea. When the lady collapsed, her entire family hopped in the car and drove the few hours it took to get to the hospital while she was flown there. Obviously people aren't in the frame of mind to stop and pack a bag and remember to feed the cat and all of the other things that you need to do to adequately prepare for being away from home for a period of time. At least with a BOB, all of your must-haves will be with you.
  • Having a neighbor or friend you can rely on with a key to your home is also a good idea. Note the cat feeding above. They also may need to pick up your kids from school, check in on your elderly parents, etc.
  • You also need to have a contact list with you at all times. I have this list on my computer, on my cell phone, and in a printed version in my BOB. Medical emergencies usually require calling lots of people and providing lots of info, this is easier to do if you have the list of people to call at your fingertips.
  • If you or a loved one is in the midst of a medical emergency, this website (http://www.caringbridge.org/) is an excellent way to keep everyone updated without making/answering a hundred calls a day.
  • Have a responsible person with you at the hospital if at all possible. If one spouse is severely injured/ill, it is always best to have a stable/responsible person with the other spouse at the hospital because in the midst of trauma, the waiting spouse often hears "blah, blah, blah, serious, blah, blah, critical...". The friend can more easily take in all of the information and help with calls to relatives/explaining things to the waiting spouse/etc.
  • You need an emergency fund. The family of the lady I told you about above is now holed up in the hospital waiting room, and they also have a room at the hotel across the street from the hospital (in one of the more expensive cities in the country I might add). You will need extra money during a medical emergency for everything from food and beverages for the waiting family to hotel rooms, to gas to get back and forth from home to the hospital, and various other sundries.
  • Leave your final instructions with your attorney or in your safe deposit box. There may be many things that you are responsible for in your daily life that no one else will be able to figure out. What will happen with your blogs and websites? Have you been secretly sending support to a child your spouse doesn't know about? All of these sorts of things need to be planned for in the event of your demise/extended incapacity.
  • Don't keep stuff that you don't want others to know about. While cleaning out the (massive amount) of papers at my aunts place, I came across a few things that she probably never intended anyone to see. If this is the case, get rid of the items now.
  • Don't forget that it is important for all family members to know the basics about emergency first aid response.
So we are still in a holding pattern as far as the lady goes. Many prayers are being said on her behalf and there is always the possibility, no matter how remote, that she will recover, but her family, and indeed my friend's entire office is still reeling from the incident. Take the time now to prepare for this possibility.