By agebuzz Contributing Editor Julie Buyon
As a wise friend said, “The unexpected happens when you least expect it, so being prepared can bring great peace of mind.” Folks who live in areas that are regularly at risk for natural disasters, such as hurricanes, seasonal flooding, or tornados, know to have a plan in place. My brother, who lives in South Florida, prepares for every six-month-long hurricane season — anticipating the possibility of no electricity, services, or grocery stores for potentially several weeks. Being prepared can ease anxiety and allow you to react quickly to changing circumstances knowing you’ve thought through the best plan for you and your family. And it’s an important and meaningful way of caring for your family.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to consider how to prepare should we get sick or need to self-quarantine. This, of course, is why toilet paper, yeast, and rice remain tough to find at the store!
There’s so much information out there about the pandemic it can be overwhelming, so let’s recap some important ways you can be prepared:
-Make sure your Advance Directives for Health Care (such as a health care proxy form and living will) reflect your current wishes. If you have not yet completed a health care proxy form, which empowers someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself, go to CaringInfo to download the form for your state (each state’s form is a little different). Use this great guide (specific to COVID-19 issues) from The Conversation Project to help you choose someone to speak for you, talk about what decisions you would want to be made on your behalf, and complete your health care proxy form. Even if you have completed a Health Care Proxy form, use The Conversation Project guide to review your wishes in light of the specific risks of COVID-19.
-Have a plan (like this one from AARP) if you get sick, so you are not trying to figure out what you need to do while you’re feeling poorly and feverish. If more than one person lives in your household, your plan will help protect them from getting sick as well. (Check the CDC for the most up-to-date guidance):
-Identify a room (with a private bathroom if possible) for the sick person to stay in. Make sure it has clean sheets and towels;
-Have food on hand that requires just heating up, like soup;
-Make sure you have disinfectant and laundry detergent available;
-Try to have a 14 – 30 day supply of everyone’s regular medications;
-Have cough medicine, decongestant, throat lozenges, and tea in the cabinet;
-Try to get a pulse oximeter to keep track of oxygen levels;
-Have a plan if you have been exposed to someone who tested positive and you need to self-quarantine; it’s pretty much the same as the plan you’ll make if someone in your household gets sick:
-Have handy your personal health history. Make sure it’s up-to-date with a:
-List of current and past medical issues;
-List of current medications/dosage/frequency and what they are for.
-Create a “Be Prepared” or “Just in Case” kit of important paperwork, just in case you become very ill. Do others know where to find your important documents and information? If not, create your own kit using a 3 ring binder with pocket divider tabs for each of the following (tab titles are in bold):
–Advance Directives for health care decisions and Wills or other estate planning documents;
–Personal information: your social security number, army discharge papers, deeds for property and vehicles, debts, et al.;
–Important contacts – both personal and professional – Who should be notified if something happens to you?
-Any plans for final arrangements, such as the family cemetery plot information and if you’ve prepaid for your funeral, as well as what kind of funeral or memorial service you would like. If you prefer to be cremated, make sure that’s included along with where the ashes should go;
–Arrangements for any dependents, such as grandchildren under your care or an adult child who is unable to live independently;
-Arrangements for your pets;
–Financial information (such as bank accounts, investments et al, as well as any online accounts and passwords)
–List and Passwords for any online accounts or social media platforms you subscribe to;
Though it may seem daunting to pull all of this together – and to figure out exactly what you need to pull together — there are some great online resources to walk you through it as well as store information for you, such as Everplans, Get Your Sh*t Together and Cake.
Now many, many people are not comfortable thinking about getting really sick or facing the inevitability that at some time, we will all leave this Earth. They feel talking about this stuff is a ‘downer” or too negative. I promise you that you will feel better and calmer with a plan in place. You will feel like a Powerhouse!
“One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about because I have a plan in place if they do.”
Julie Buyon is a palliative care patient advocate. She has professional and personal expertise in assisting people with complex illnesses navigate the health care environment. Julie’s role is to help patients feel empowered, and her agebuzz posts are intended to make sure agebuzz readers have all the tools and info they need to advocate for themselves and their loved ones. Julie would love agebuzz readers to email her at [email protected] with any questions or problems encountered with the health care system, and she will do all she can to address those issues in upcoming blog posts. She also welcomes feedback regarding her advice or recommendations. Read all of Julie’s agebuzz posts here and get in touch with Julie now at [email protected].