How to Be Ready for Medical Emergencies

Life can change in an instant, sometimes by a mile. Accidents happen, unknown conditions surface, and joyous times suddenly turn into nightmares. It’s part of the life experience, and while shocking and unexpected, it should never be surprising.

This month has been tough for our family. Everyone’s all right now, which is all that matters, but I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to really be ready for this kind of stuff. Someone once told me that your life is like a rubber band—keep it in good shape and relatively loose and you’ll have a lot of leeway; stay high-strung and risk snapping when something bad happens.

Get adequate medical insurance. Medical insurance is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Each policy should be customized based on probable need, worst-case scenarios, and financial strength. Supplemental policies, like those offered through AFLAC, can really come in handy.

Manage your stress levels. Dealing with stress is a two-fold approach for me: one aspect deals with daily stress levels, and the other with knowing how to deal with big events “in the moment.” Managing daily stress helps prevent “snapping” in the heat of the moment and having a full meltdown. Understanding how to make your body react and calm down under stress (e.g. breathing exercises) helps you think clearly and make decisions at your full capacity.

Surround yourself with supportive people. A network of friends and family at your side is invaluable during hard times. They can carry on your daily responsibilities, like picking up your kids from daycare or walking the dog, while you’re unable to do so. It’s during times like these when you find out who your real friends are.

Accept help when it’s given. Given a supportive network, it’s inevitable that people will offer their help in any way they can. Our gut reaction is to reject the help out of guilt for our illness or situation affecting others. But the reality is that people want to genuinely lend a hand, and it makes them feel good to do so. Accepting help can lift a lot of the pressures of dealing with a stressful situation from your shoulders.

Prioritize now; execute later. The big idea is to make as many decisions ahead of time as possible. If you’re in an important client meeting and your wife is sent to the hospital, what will you do? Make the call now, instead of doing it in an emotional situation. You can recall your decision in the heat of the moment and let your rational self guide you.

Understand your family’s medical history and wishes. I was amazed at how much I knew about the medical history of my family, and also at some of the questions I wasn’t sure about. Are you an organ donor? Did you get the flu shot this year? What was the last time you were hospitalized? It would help to carry around a brief summary of your medical history if your partner’s memory is short.

Being sick or injured is rarely a predictable experience and it never comes at a convenient time. Doing your best to prepare ahead is time and money well-spent. Are you ready for an emergency? Share your thoughts in the comments.

3 thoughts on “How to Be Ready for Medical Emergencies

  1. Two more points I’d add:

    1) For the worst type of medical emergency — Consider whether or not you should have life insurance. You may want to have it if someone else (spouse, kids) relies on your income, or if you run a company (which will need the cash to hire someone to replace you).

    2) Keep a living will/medical will. We all watched the Terry Schiavo debacle.

    1. Great points. Not stuff you necessarily want to think about, but important nonetheless.

  2. I cannot stress how important it is to have appropriate disability insurance. We have always considered ourselves to be conservative, financially savvy consumers. Unfortunately, after my accident, we learned the reality: assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living) is not typically a covered benefit with insurance companies. You’ll need a separate disability policy, and we didn’t have one.

    Fortunately, I qualified for Social Security Disability on my first try. Unfortunately, a good chunk of that money goes to having someone in three times a week to help.

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