Sunday, July 10, 2011

Preparing for Disaster Series (Part 7 of 10): Extended Illness

Unfortunately, one of the disasters that we are most likely to experience, whether for us or a loved one, is an extended illness.  I've run out of fingers and toes needed to count how many people I know who have been diagnosed with cancer, been in a major car wreck which takes months and months to recuperate from, or been struck with some other type of chronic disease (hepatitis, MS, etc).  At least with many other types of disasters, you are in prime physical shape to deal with the fall out (job loss, lack of money, for example). BUT, when you are the one who is struck down with some terrible physical condition, not only do you have to deal with the challenges of daily life (keeping a paycheck coming in and keeping the kids fed) but you also have to deal with treatment/recovery which is a full time job in itself!  Here's some ways to prepare for the possibility of an extended illness:
  1. You need health insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance.  Just the cost of these various types of insurances is enough to scare most healthy people away but when you become ill and can't work for a period of time, or worse, you suffer a lengthy illness then die leaving your family to pick up the pieces, having comprehensive insurance coverage will be worth it's weight in gold.
  2. You need an emergency fund.  Unfortunately these days, many people barely have a job. Forget about a job that will pay them lengthy sick leave benefits at their full rate.  An emergency fund (the bigger the better) can help keep the bills paid and food in the cupboards in the event that you are out of work for months.
  3. A giant stockpile of food is helpful in many types of disasters...and this is one of them.  If you suddenly find yourself unable to work (or worse--unable to leave the hospital) at least having a couple month's worth of food in the pantry to keep the kids fed is a great idea.  This is where "extreme couponing" comes in handy.
  4. It's a good idea to build a solid social support network now, before you need it.  In the "olden days" your social network was kind of built in with lots of local family, neighbors, and friends.  Now that people are so transient, family may be thousands of miles away and unable to help out much if you become home-bound.  With family, neighbors, friends, and co-workers that you can count on (and they know that they can count on you) suffering a lenghty illness or recuperation means you won't be suffering alone.
  5. If you are the only one in the family who cooks, cleans, does laundry, or takes care of the other minute of every day life, start spreading the work around.  A friend of mine was suddenly hospitalized with a serious illness which took months to recuperate from.  We, her friends, were kind of astonished that neither her husband nor teenage kids had the slightest idea how to cook (they ended up eating out a lot), do laundry (we gave them a few lessons), deal with the banking, set dental appointments, or do any of the other hundreds of tasks that she had always done for them but was suddenly unable to do.  It was a learning experience for everyone.
  6. Have a bag of emergency supplies (an overnight bag with toiletries and a change of clothes) ready to grab at a moment's notice.  This has been mentioned in other posts in this series but it works for an extended illness as well.  What usually happens is that someone is in a serious accident or they are at the hospital when they find themself suddenly admitted and the rest of the family is called and hurries over.  It is much easier to grab the pre-prepared bag then try to figure out what to pack in the midst of anguish and grief.
  7. Have your papers in order.  This is another pre-planning step that you need to do before you suddenly are unable to do it.  Having things like an updated Will, Living Will, and medical power of attorney prepared ahead of time will greatly help whoever is there to take care of you.
  8. Take care of your health starting today!  Many extended illnesses (heart disease, stroke, etc) are the result of years of bad living.  By doing what you can--such as exercising daily, eating a healthy diet, and being proactive in your health care--you can lessen the possibility of suffering from many of the extended/chronic illnesses that have become so common in our society.
  9. Make a "how to" book.  This is a good idea but many people feel overwhelmed even beginning such a task.  This book should give complete instructions for how someone else can step into your life and basically take over where you left off.  Everything should be covered here from instructions about your children (the name of their school and teacher, their Social Security number and birthdate, allergies, etc) to your information (banking info, investments, personal info, etc) to list of assets (type of car and VIN number) to usernames and passwords to your online accounts.  Here's a good form to get you started.
  10. Make your home relatively user-friendly.  One thing I've noticed most often when someone is seriously ill or injured is the difficulty they have with actually coming home from the hospital or rehab.  Usually their home is so cluttered that it takes a major cleaning effort to get enough stuff out of the way to make room for their hospital bed/wheelchair/supplies.  What once was a perfectly functioning home suddenly becomes loaded with obstacles--from stairs to door widths to overflowing rooms to uneven terrain between the parking area and front door to the many other things that can make a home not so wheel-chair friendly.  While you don't want to live in a sparse home based on the remote possibility of your future disability, decluttering occasionally is still a good idea.
While none of us really wants to contemplate being disabled and dependant on others, there is still a statistical probability that such a thing could happen in your lifetime so take this opportunity to get prepared now.

No comments:

Post a Comment