Today, April 16, is National Healthcare Decisions Day. It’s a day dedicated to helping people think about advance care planning - which is really about quality of life. If you’ve been reading my newsletters and keeping up with me on social media, you know that I often highlight the importance of getting your advance directives (health care proxy, living will, POLST) in order. The current situation with COVID-19 — heightened risk as well as a prohibition on having any visitors in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and senior communities — drives home this point even more. Spending time to get your important health information organized and sharing it with the appropriate people is critical to helping your health care proxy and family members advocate for you in an emergency. Keep reading below for more info.
Stay well and stay home!
I’ve written before about creating a Personal Health Information Binder. Some people are calling it a “Grab and Go Kit” or “Emergency Health Kit.” Regardless of the name, the idea is the same: Organize your important health care-related information in a binder or folder. Keep a copy by your front door or somewhere where an EMT would see it and grab it to take with you to the hospital in case of an emergency; therefore, the front of it should say in big letters: TAKE IN CASE OF MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Also, make sure your health care proxy has a copy of all this information. If your health care proxy doesn’t live near you, make sure a trusted neighbor or friend knows that you have this folder and where it is in case someone needs to bring it to the hospital.
What should be in this folder/kit:
I also recommend keeping your cell phone fully charged and having an extra charger in your folder or binder. If you want to have a small bag prepared too, you could include extra hearing aids/batteries and glasses, if needed, as well as some toiletries.
If you have not set up a patient portal, now is a great time to do that. In “normal times,” it’s an easy way to contact your doctors and keep track of your test results and upcoming appointments. Share the login information with your health care proxy and trusted family members in case they need more information to help advocate for your care. While you may think that the health care professionals taking care of you will have access to that information, it’s entirely possible that you might not be taken to your usual hospital.
(2) Advance care planning is about control. In this time of so much uncertainty and fear, anything that gives us a sense of control can be comforting. It’s the perfect time to think about your wishes and who you want to be in charge of carrying them out for you, if necessary. Five Wishes is a national document accepted by almost all states. It includes a form to list your Health Care Power of Attorney but also includes an easy-to-use way for you to let people know what kind of care you would want. Other great resources include The Conversation Project and MyDirectives.com
Feel free to contact me if you have questions about or need help with any of this -- gayle@InTuneHealthAdvocates.com or 847-920-8238.
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