COVID 19 was not in my calendar for 2020, and I strongly suspect it was not in yours either. I often have said that family life crises don’t make appointments; they just show up. And I am usually talking about how to be prepared for the inevitable call from or about an older loved one in your orbit…AND how to be prepared for your and their next steps. Well, this time, preparing for a crisis could be closer to home, because all of us need to be prepared so that the people who may get the call that we have taken ill can be prepared. What do you need to do to make a Plan?
When I have spoken in the past, some people back off from talking about a loved one in a crisis. This list is about you, so please forgive me for getting “personal.” Here is my “short list” of the documents you need to have and make them available to your partner, your kids or other close friend … sometimes with no notice:
- Medical Release – the document you need so your medical providers to speak with your loved one’s about your health status, medications and prognosis.
- Power of Attorney (POA) for Finance – a legally binding document that gives a person (referred to as the “agent” or “attorney in fact” permission or power to act on your behalf in matters of property or finance.
- Power of Attorney (POA) for Healthcare – a legally binding document that gives a person power to act on your behalf in matters of medical treatment. The “power” typically is in force when it is deemed the person in question can no longer act for themselves or if they are not conscious.
- Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) – a document (varies state by state) that specifies in advance what measures you wish to have in the event you cannot expressly grant permission yourself. These orders typically revolve around life-saving measures; they are sometimes referred to as advanced directives and are placed in your medical files. The forms are downloadable at your state’s web site.
- Health and Life Insurance Policies – the health policy will help everyone involved understand what is covered and which physicians and other providers are available to you. The Life insurance policy should be in a safe place so that it can be readily accessed should that become necessary.
- Estate Plan – is (potentially) a wide-ranging document that let’s everyone know how any real estate or other holdings are titled and what the “plan” is for when your will is executed.
- Trust documents – help to identify how your estate is to be transmitted to beneficiaries. Trust names need to be consistent with life insurance, will and holdings in order to be in effect.
- Last Will and Testament – the legal document by which you express your wishes of how property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor, to manage your estate until its final distribution.
- The Grab and Go – This is a list that typically is sealed in a plastic bag. It includes your medical insurance documentation, a list of allergies, a list of medications, primary care physician contact details and in case of emergency (ICE) contact information.
Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) me with any questions on any of these…as well as how to take the next steps which is your plan. Do yourself a favor…don’t wait.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.