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Bad Things Happen to Good People: How to Prepare for Medical Emergencies

Millions of Americans were affected by severe hurricanes and major forest fires this year. About 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer. Some 20 million to 50 million people are injured in car accidents each year.

At any time, natural and man-made disasters can impact our lives. You can’t ever fully prepare for the workings of nature and biology that cause trauma and serious medical problems. But if you follow the checklist below you’ll have resources to fall back on when an emergency arises.

Checklist for Medical Emergencies:

  1. Have health insurance that covers you and your family. Medical emergencies are expensive events, and besides, by law, you are required to have it. Do not assume that you will always be healthy and strong, because we are always one step, one heartbeat, and one breath away from disaster.
  2. Have proper checkups and follow the instructions of your doctor(s) when diagnosed with any health problems. Healthy habits, like eating right, exercising, sleeping eight hours, and following safety standards, count for a lot. Most accidents are avoidable and are caused by poor decisions in the moment.
  3. Show young children and the elderly people in your life how to call emergency crews. Most mobile phones are programmed to respond to a verbal command to call 911. Make sure your spouse and children know how to access your phone so they can call family members and health care providers in case of an emergency.
  4. Consider a medical power of attorney:
    • Sign Medical Power of Attorney forms (MPOA, HCPOA) and keep them on file with local hospitals and in an accessible storage location so that a spouse or adult child can have access to your medical records and your consent to direct treatment until you are awake. In the same storage location and online, keep a list of family members’ medications and dosages, allergies, insurance information, and medical conditions.
    • Have a signed MPOA for each child above the age of 15. Even though they are your child, you do not have medical authority over them after age 15. When they are away at school or on a fun high school trip, the MPOA provides authority to help them. If you do not want an attorney to draft the document as part of your estate planning process, you can download a Medical Power of Attorney form for free.
  5. Be trained in CPR and other emergency first aid techniques. At 1 a.m., while your 10-year-old calls 911, you may need to provide CPR to a loved one to keep them alive. Red Cross classes are inexpensive.
  6. Have the Poison Control phone number in your kitchen. It is critical that you know who to call and what to do while emergency teams are en route.
  7. Have a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen and a bucket of cheap flour or sand. Water does not put out a grease fire, and many get burned trying to put out such fires.
  8. Have a First Aid Kit. Keep it organized and properly stocked with medical supplies.
  9. Keep and teach good safety habits. Don’t stand on a ladder near steps, climb without proper footing or harness, have cooking utensil handles and knives accessible to young children, or keep poisons and cleaning supplies under unlocked sinks.
  10. Keep copies of important identification documents and some cash in a portable waterproof safe outside of your home (in a shed or other private location). So, after a house fire, major storm, or other evacuation, you will have access to money, personal identification, and other emergency numbers. You can also contract with online services that store crucial information—such as passwords, websites and ID numbers—in the cloud, and make them accessible from multiple devices.

A CFP® professional can help you prepare financially and emotionally for life’s emergencies. You’ll have to be smart about the little things—like not stepping on the top rung of a ladder—on your own.

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