As some of you know…In 1996, my mother required emergency surgery for a brain aneurysm. She was sixty-nine. Three days later, my seventy-seven year old father had a massive stroke. As a family, our lives changed overnight and we began a fifteen-year journey on a path with very few road signs and an inside-out map.
As the only daughter in a family full of boys, I had the role of primary caregiver for much of this time. We all pitched in (including spouses), but in those first several years, there were so many things I wish we’d known!!
Our family had no experience with this type of situation, nor were we expecting it. To make matters more difficult, it quickly became apparent that there was no one place to get the information needed – not within the medical profession, the health insurance industry or even within our own network of relatives and friends.
Having been through it, there is some critical information that, as a family, is easily put together prior to a situation where it becomes needed. It might be a rather uncomfortable half hour or so with your parents, but at a minimum you should have:
- A list of doctors
- Phone number, address, date of last visit
- Prescribed medications, preferred pharmacy
- Known allergies
- Past surgeries
- HIPPA access to health information
- Without HIPPA access, someone once refused to tell me whether my mother’s doctor appointment was at 10am or 10:15am…even though I made the appointment, always brought her to her appointments and paid the bills for said appointments!
- Social Security number
- Medical insurance information and copies of the cards
- Bill paying information
- I became their Durable Power of Attorney, meaning I could act on their behalf in any legal matter, including financial –
- It was also very helpful once I was able to pay their bills online (not so common in 1996)
- Living will – includes advance directives that clarify what medical actions someone wants or doesn’t want taken to be kept alive, along with their wishes in regard to management of pain and donation of organs
- Legal will – states what a person wants done with his or her belongings and assets after death
- Final wishes
- Unbeknownst to us, our mother wanted to be cremated. All we knew was that she would come back and haunt us if we gave her a wake (she did not want anyone she didn’t like when living, able to see her dead) – https://hereisakiss.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/cremation-or-not/
- Favorite recipes
- I might kill for my mother’s ricotta cheese cake recipe and so wish she was here to show me (one more time) how to make homemade ravioli!
Anything else readers can think of???
Granted, with our family it was both parents at the same time. If it were just Dad, Mom would have some (but probably not all, since he handled the bill paying and legal stuff) of this information. If it were just Mom, we would be in the same situation, since Dad didn’t have to know anything about doctors or surgeries (unless they were his) or the like. To him, that was what wives were for.
All this begin said, maybe you should put this information together for your own children so someday, they will be prepared.