Hope for the Best and Prepare for the Worst

Documents and Lists

Rebecca’s dad calls himself a “Happy Pessimist” – he thinks ahead in an effort to be prepared if illness or another disaster strikes.  He has included his family in his planning process, so everyone is informed.  Gideon and Rebecca work with clients to do similar planning, but sometimes, in spite of all their work, there are occasional gaps.  Imagine being on a sailboat in the middle of the Long Island Sound and getting a call from a client requesting a list of her husband’s medicines.  This happened one summer to Rebecca as she was sailing to Martha’s Vineyard with her family.  For seniors, the potential for emergency illnesses and “in-home” or “falling-in-the-street” accidents are often greater, as they were with the husband of Rebecca’s client.  Since September is National Preparedness Month, we want to encourage happy pessimism in our readers, pushing you to think ahead for yourselves, your clients and your elderly relatives. 

In an emergency where the senior cannot handle financial and medical decisions, the following needs to be in place:

  • Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Proxy
  • Signed Authorizations submitted to each health insurance company (Medicare, Secondary Insurance, Medicare D – Pharmacy Insurance) allowing family, friend, or other surrogates to speak on the senior’s behalf.  Call each insurance company while the senior is well and request a form to be filled out listing the senior’s choice of authorized people.  It is then signed by the senior and mailed back to the company.
  • Everyone should be carrying emergency contact information and insurance cards with them, but seniors and younger people who have medical conditions should also carry a list of medicines, dosage, frequency of use and the prescribing doctor in their wallet.  An Excel spreadsheet formatted to be credit card size is perfect.
  • Create a medical history – a list of all illnesses, past hospitalizations or operations, doctors, dates and locations.  This would also include a full-size version of the pharmaceuticals


We remember vividly September 11th 2001 as we approach the anniversary this week.  Meanwhile the destruction being wrought by Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike reminds us of Hurricane Katrina.  There are natural disasters, blackouts and acts of terrorism for which we list below the government’s preparedness resources.  On Monday we had the opportunity to hear a presentation by two representatives of the American Red Cross of Greater New York at our NY chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers.  They reinforced the need to “Get a Kit”, “Make a Plan” and “Be Informed”.  We will share here some of what we learned.

These are the things that should be in a home in addition to the documents cited above:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flashlights strategically placed around the home
  • Phone that does not rely on electricity in case the power goes out
  • Disaster Supply Kit with the following items to last at least 3 days
  • Water – at least one gallon per person per day
  • Food – non-perishable
  • One change of clothing and comfortable footwear and a blanket/sleeping bag per person
  • First Aid Kit
  • Battery-powered or crank radio and flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • An extra set of car and house keys
  • Sanitation supplies like toilet paper, toothbrush and soap
  • Special items for infants, the elderly or disabled persons
  • Extra pair of glasses and/or contact lenses and solution
September 2008 - FEATURE
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