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  • Writer's pictureJonda Beattie

The Last Stage of Life

One of the presentations I attended at our last NAPO conference was on the topic: The Last Stage of Life – Practical Preparations for Everyone. The well-versed presenter was Audrey Billet. This might sound like a morbid topic, but it is really a very practical way of preparing for the future. On a personal note, you can have no idea unless you have experienced it yourself, what a blessing it was that my late husband and I had all the conversations and paperwork in order before he became ill and died. I did not have to second guess what his wishes were during my time of grief.

It is important to have conversations with loved ones before something catastrophic happens. What surprised me was that I had not considered that this would also mean my unmarried son. If you have a child that is now of legal age, as a parent you have no right to get his medical information or make a decision on what should happen if they are in a terrible accident or become too ill to make their own decisions unless you have the paperwork to show that they allow you to make those decisions. If you have an elderly parent or spouse, you should also have conversations around topics such as memory loss and assisted living. I know that my mother always used to say, “The most horrible thing I can think of is to wake up somewhere and have no idea where I am.” When you hear a statement that, it is the time to talk about what she would want when the time comes to consider such options.

Audrey stated that everyone should have:

  1. An advance directive (living will) updated every 5 years

  2. A durable power of attorney for healthcare

  3. HIPPA releases

  4. A durable power of attorney for finances

While looking up HIPPA releases, I discovered that if your loved one does not have one in place with their medical insurance company, they too will not discuss anything with you.

Now I have all of these things except I should have HIPPA releases in other places besides my main doctor. But if an emergency happens to me, where would first responders find this information?

Places first responders might look:

  1. On a person’s body – a medical alert bracelet can connect them to a database

  2. The fridge – some states have programs that train responders to look for a tag or yellow dot & responders might look in the fridge for diabetic medicines

  3. The front door – there is a program called Vial of Life that provides people with a form – then a sticker is on the front door to alert responders

  4. Your wallet or purse – first responders may not look there but the medical professionals in the emergency room will

  5. Your cell phone – ICE stands for In Case of Emergency – if you make this entry on your phone with a phone number of who to contact – this will probably be checked at the emergency room

Having basic information on hand for EMTs or paramedics is important but there is not a set location on where to keep this. It is a good idea to have it in more than one location.

Audrey also recommended a book, Being Mortal by Atul Gauande, as a useful resource on this topic.

I highly recommend that if you have not already made these preparations, you schedule a time to do so now. Then share with your loved ones what you have done and where the paperwork is filed.

Jonda S. Beattie Professional Organizer

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