When you’re sick, the last thing you want to have to think about is what to bring to the hospital. Surely a family member or loved one will bring you what you need. And at any other time in history, that would probably be the case. But this is not that time.
The corona-virus is turning everything on its head. That includes hospital stays. The virus is so contagious and passes so easily that visitation is prohibited. Scary, I know.
It makes sense for all of us to collect the essential items we’ll need in case we find ourselves needing hospital level care. We know when that happens, it’s quick, it’s scary, and – in the case of this virus – we have to go in alone. A colleague of mine, Attorney Peter Clark of Mansfield, Mass. recently shared this list, and I’ve added my own commentary to each item:
1. Copy of legal paperwork such as Health Care Proxy, advance directive, and/or MOLST. You didn’t expect me to put this one anywhere but first place, right? And while you’re thinking about it, is it time to update your Health Care Proxy? Do you want to include specific language dealing with COVID-19, and differences in desired treatment v. traditional end-of-life decision-making?
2. List of emergency contacts and phone numbers on paper. This too is in the category of keeping things as simple as possible for medical personnel. You want the hospital to be able to call your loved ones especially when your phone battery has died, or you’re unconscious and can’t unlock the phone.
3. Written, UPDATED, accurate list of medications: name, dose, frequency. Notations after the name of the medication are important too such as: XL, XR, LA, IR, ER, SR. Medical personnel are going to be overwhelmed taking in patients. Whatever you can do to help them, and make it as simple as possible, will go a long way to helping make sure you get the best care possible.
4. Primary Care Doctor. If the hospital needs details of your medical history, you’re going to want to make that easy for them. Have your doctor’s full name, phone number and office address written down and easily accessible.
5. If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator make sure to bring a copy of the pocket information card that states the brand, model number, MRI compatibility. Nothing should slow down a doctor’s ability to treat you, especially the time it would take to get this valuable information. Have it handy, and you’ll breeze right through to whatever testing you might need.
6. If you have asthma or COPD, consider bringing your inhalers. Normally hospitals will tell you not to, wanting to administer their own, but as hospitals fill up they may run low on supplies of these basic items as well. Better safe than sorry.
7. Cell phone charger! People always have phones with low or no battery power. You maybe in the emergency room for 6 to 48 hours;if your phone or other device dies, helping you find a compatible one is not going to be a priority. Not to mention the possibility of cross-contamination. If you didn’t have the virus when you arrived, sharing a charger could be how you get exposed.
8. Extra batteries for hearing aid or other medical devices. Not only do you want to keep your phone charged, you also want to keep medical devices and hearing aids working too. You won’t be having any fun, why add something like a dead battery to your list of woes?
9. Good toothbrush and hair brush. Sometimes the simplest bits of self-care can go a long, long way. Hospital toiletries are cheap. They aren’t the Hilton. And let’s not even discuss the shortages of these items if hospitals are overwhelmed.
10. Several pairs of underwear. Again, it’s the little things that can go a long way toward helping you feel more like yourself. Just how many pairs of underwear you pack is up to you based on your condition and how long you think you might be at the hospital. And ladies younger than a certain age, don’t forget the feminine products you might need.. I know if I were hospitalized, I’d want all my own ‘stuff’ when it comes to this department.
11. A book or something to read. If you’re unlucky enough to land in one of the makeshift field hospitals popping up now, you most likely won’t have a television, or even access to WiFi. And there will come a time when you’ll get sick of staring at your phone, or when you reach the end of the internet, have watched every YouTube video ever created and there’s simply nothing else to do there. Recovering, while important work, can also be all sorts of boring. You’re going to wish you had something else to do.
I’m not suggesting you need to pack this bag today. Or even tomorrow. But if you do start feeling sick, consider packing it “just in case.” I know bad things usually happen to other people, but sooner or later one of us has to be that “other person.” Think of it as insurance. Murphy’s Law says if you do pack a Go-Bag, you’ll end up being just fine.
If you need a Health Care Proxy, or any other estate planning document, we’re ready, willing and able to help you. We’ve been working remotely for over a year now. We’ve already got the efficient systems in place to keep things as simple as possible. And if you are feeling sick, we can get things turned around wicked fast.
You and your family have enough to worry about right now. Don’t let being without a Health Care Proxy be one of them.