Emergency Information Crucial
for Your Aging Parents.
Are You the Health Proxy?

For most people, completing emergency information such as a Power of Attorney for Health Care, and other emergency documents are things that we all know are good to do -- someday.

You’re busy, there are a lot of things on your list. You've heard of a health proxy and know that this kind of emergency planning might be nice, but it’s going to have to wait until it makes it to the top of the list. Who knows when that might be. So, we go on our merry way, until life is interrupted by something unexpected.

"She had been a member of the church for some time. We all knew that she had grown children who were scattered across the country, but came to visit whenever they could. She talked about them all the time and bragged about the grandchildren.

On day, she had a massive heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. The main problem was –- no one knew how to contact her daughters. Even though we’d heard stories and seen pictures many times, none of us even knew their full names since they were married. The search took us a couple of days…

You may be thinking that your aging parents are in good shape, or in good health and any thought of emergency information slips your mind. But they’re not immune from the accidents or sudden illness in the world. You do what you can to help them stay healthy and safe – but it’s also smart to be prepared.

Why Do It Now?

It’s simple -- after the crisis is too late. Your parents’ closest friends all know you live out of town. But if your folks were in an accident, would any of their friends have their emergency information on hand to know who to call or even where to find the phone numbers?

In Case of Emergency, would emergency workers know your parents have ICE on file? (In their cell phone put -- ICE John 555-555-5555 [John's phone number]. This will alert them to call John in case of emergency.)

First, Handle the Simple Things

  • Make sure you know the full names and phone numbers of your parents neighbors and closest friends. Make sure they know your name and contact numbers. In an emergency they may need to reach you.
  • Know the name and phone number of your parents place of worship and their clergy person. Make sure the church has your full name and contact info in an emergency file.
  • Who has an emergency key to their house?

Emergency Information: Medical

  • Have a list of all your parents doctors, locations, phone numbers and what condition they are treating.

  • List of all prescription medications, dosages and what they are treating

  • List of all herbal medications or over the counter drugs taken regularly

  • List of all allergies
  • Know who is your parent's Medical Power of Attorney (to make medical decisions if your parents are temporarily incapacitated). Have his or her name and phone numbers. If it is you, have the document that states this in your possession and make sure that one resides in all your parents medical records
  • Help your parents complete Advance Directives and the converstions surrounding them.

Plan for Those Depending on Your Parent's Care

Emergency Plan for Finances

If your parents were in the hospital and unable to make decisions for themselves for some period of time, is there someone legally designated by a Durable Power of Attorney to handle their finances?

Who would pay their bills, or see that the utilities are not cut off? Without legal authority, you couldn’t access their bank account, or sign one of their checks. Do you have a list so you know when things are due, and how they are typically paid?

  • Who can pay their bills in an emergency? Who has a list of what's owned and what's due?

  • Know who holds the Durable Power of Attorney for your parent’s finances if they become incapacitated

  • Know the location of all your parents financial records
  • Know the location of their will (It should NOT be in a safe deposit box!)

If you start now, you have the time to help your aging parents attend to even the smallest details that will make a huge difference. And you’ll finally be able to get their neighbor a key to the house like you had always planned.

With a bit of preparation you can help your parents gather some critical information to give to the people who they would like to be their advocates in an emergency.

How to Talk About Emergency Information

Tell your parents a little about what you have learned, and that you want to make sure you or someone else is legally able to help them in an emergency. You can easily organize the conversations and needed documents in just a few minutes a day.

Don’t let your aging parent think about this long list of questions and be overwhelmed by how much emergency information there is to gather. In other words, don’t try to do it all at once. Have them set aside just a few minutes a day – but every day - until it’s complete.

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