Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Plan Ahead

If you or a loved one becomes sick, there are 10 things you need to know ahead of time:

1. Names of their doctors. If you don't know anything else, this is probably the most important piece of information. The chances are good that your parents' doctors can provide much of the rest of the information needed as well as more details about your parents' specific health histories.
2. Birth dates. Often medical records and insurance information are cataloged according to birth date. This can improve communication in an emergency or a crisis.
3. List of allergies. This is especially important if one of your parents is allergic to medication — penicillin, for example.
4. Advance directives. An advance directive is a legal document that outlines a person's decisions about his or her health care, such as whether or not resuscitation efforts should be made and the use of life-support machines.
5. Major medical problems. This includes such diseases as diabetes or heart disease.
6. List of medications. It's especially important that a doctor know if your parent uses blood thinners.
7. Religious beliefs. This is particularly important in case blood transfusions are needed.
8. Insurance information. Know the name of your parents' health insurance provider and their policy numbers.
9. Prior surgery. List past medical procedures, such as cardiac bypass surgery.
10. Lifestyle information. Do your parents drink alcohol or use tobacco?

If your parent will need home health care, what agency should be called? If you or a loved one can't get around and do for yourself but can still stay at home, what kind of services do you want to help you with daily living?

Most families don't know this information until the unexpected happens. Plan for the unexpected now and share your plans with family members, NOW. Unplanned decisions are uninformed decisions, and in the heat of a crisis, they are rarely in anyone's best interest. Take proactive steps now:
• Create a "Rainy Day Folder" that places all of your parent's directives in one place and share a copy with family members.
• Fill out a Advance Directive or Living Will so everyone will know what your parent wants regarding any end-of-life decisions
• Make a list of all your parent's physicians and identify the hospital of choice in the event of an emergency
• Encourage your parent to choose a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney so a trusted loved one can make health care decisions in the event that he or she cannot make decisions independently
• Choose a home health agency that will provide home health visits once in hospital or inpatient skilled care is no longer necessary. An agency that can provide private duty care if needed in addition to visits by therapists and nurses will help eliminate the need to deal with multiple agencies.