As a caregiver, it is important for you and your co-caregivers to know what to do in case the "ifs" happen to the person you care about. For instance, what to do:
- If the person you care about needs medical care and becomes unable to speak for him or herself.
- If the person's children need caring for either temporarily or permanently.
- If his or her pet(s) need taking care of.
- If bills such as health insurance premiums need to be paid.
- If the person you care about has an emergency at home or in any other place outside of a hospital. For example, does the person want you to call 911, or let him or her be?
- If the person dies. If the body or organs are to be donated, quick action has to be taken.
Once a person knows what he or she wants to do (or not do), all it takes is executing a few simple legal documents which are free or inexpensive for the patient to have control over these matters. Planning ahead also saves money - possibly a lot of money.
At the least, everyone should have a Will which describes what you want done with your assets on death.
Everyone should also consider executing documents known as "Advance Directives." An Advance Directive tells the medical profession what you want do or do not want done medically if you become unable to speak for yourself. If you only execute one Advance Directive, Survivorship A to Z recommends that it be a "Healthcare Power Of Attorney" which appoints a person to fill in the gray areas not covered in other healthcare documents and empowers someone to enforce wishes.
We are not suggesting that each caregiver discuss these matters with the person being cared for. However, at least one person should know, and inform the others of what they each need to know.
If the person being cared for doesn't start the conversation, it is up to a caregiver to start it. Who, how and when depends on the people involved and the situation.
If it helps, one of our recommendations to patients is that an easy way to have a discussion about the "what ifs" is to bring up the subject at a holiday when the family is together. The concept is to find out what everyone in the family wants in case of the "what ifs" - not just the person with a health condition. We can all get hit by a bus. And remember Terry Schiavo. She was in her mid-20's when she suffered the unexpected event that put her into a coma that lasted for years before her husband got permission to turn off the machines because she had only expressed her desires to him orally and not in writing.
We discuss the "what ifs" and how to deal with them in detail throughout this web site. The practical information applies to all caregivers, as well as the person with a health condition. In fact, it applies to everyone. For an overview, see Planning Ahead. For a discussion of each of the subjects raised above, see:
- Medical care when a person cannot communicate: Advance Healthcare Directives (Health Care Power Of Attorney, Living Wills, DNR, Mental Health)
- Care Of Your Assets When You Can't
- Children: Care Of If You Are Unable To
- Pets, Care Of
- Upkeep of a person's life: List of Instructions (a list everyone should have that reminds what needs to be done and when to keep life going.)
- In the event of death