No one likes to think about ending up in the ER with a life-threatening condition. Unfortunately, this happens to people every day. A fall at work, an auto accident, a stroke, or a heart attack could lead to your swift transport to a hospital where you may be admitted for life-saving care. Unfortunately, if you haven't planned ahead for this possibility, a bad situation could become much worse.
To make sure you are as ready as possible for an unexpected disaster, there are five key steps you should take today-- while you're still healthy and have the chance to prepare for an uncertain future.
1. Make sure your insurance will cover you
A medical emergency could leave you with costly care bills. If your condition incapacitates you for a long time, you may be unable to work. If you cannot take care of yourself because of your condition, you could find yourself in a long-term care facility that charges thousands of dollars monthly.
If you don't have insurance to cover all of these undesirable scenarios, you and your loved ones could face financial disaster. You should review your insurance coverage regularly and ensure you have appropriate health insurance with a reasonable deductible; a disability insurance policy; a long-term care policy; and life insurance to protect your loved ones in case of your untimely death.
If you do have coverage, be prepared for the unfortunate reality that hospitals ask for insurance cards as soon as possible upon admission. While you'll be let into the ER without your card for life-saving care, your family may be badgered to provide policy information even as you face a dire threat to your health.
Having your insurance card on your person at all times ensures your coverage information will quickly be available to hospital so staff members can provide the highest quality of care without worries about whether you'll be able to pay the bill. Your claim can also be processed through your insurer right away, reducing the chances you'll be asked to pay out-of-pocket and forced to haggle with your insurer for reimbursement later.
2. Save up a rainy day fund
While disability and health insurance can protect you from financial calamity, a serious illness -- and especially a long-term one -- could still wreak havoc on your finances. If you're living paycheck to paycheck, you may not have the funds to cover your co-pays or to pay the bills until you get back on your feet.
Having a rainy day fund, or an emergency fund, allows you time to recoup without worrying about where you'll get the money to eat or keep a roof over your head. Most financial experts recommend you save around 3-6 months of living expenses -- if you're prone to health issues, err on the side of having a big emergency fund.
3. Save your emergency contact in your phone the right way
If your cellphone is locked, those tending to you in a medical emergency may be unable to access it to find out who to call. To make sure you don't have this problem, set the contact information for your emergency contact as your lock screen.
There are a number of different ways you can do this. Some phones -- like the iPhone -- allow you to create a medical ID in the phone's health app. You can select the option to "show when locked" so your information will show up even if your phone cannot be opened because you are incapacitated .
Third party apps can also display your emergency contact on your lock screen. Or, you can use notepad on your phone to write out your contact's information and any other vital details, like allergies to medications. Take a screen shot of the note and set it as your wallpaper on your lock screen so the relevant information shows up immediately as soon as someone picks up the phone .
4. Put advanced directives in place
If you're incapacitated because of a serious accident or a medical event that leaves you unconscious, important decisions may need to be made about your care at a time when you're unable to make them. You can use tools like a living will or Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) to provide specific instructions regarding the kinds of medical care you'd prefer to receive or would like to decline.
You can also name a healthcare proxy using a healthcare power of attorney. This means choosing a particular person to be in charge of making medical decisions on your behalf if your condition prevents you from communicating. By choosing the person who will decide on care for you, you eliminate the chances of your family arguing over your care and you get to select a person who you feel would make decisions in accordance with your wishes and values.
5. Make plans to protect your pets and kids
When you have pets or children, you need both a short-term plan for their care and a long-term plan in case you become permanently incapacitated or pass away. To ensure your pets and children are safe in the short-term, carry a card in your wallet indicating you may have pets or kids at home alone. Provide details on who should be contacted to check in on your children and pets so they aren't left alone for a long time if you become unconscious and cannot communicate.
You should also name a guardian for your kids and for your pets in case you become unable to care for either. Naming a trusted person -- who you've spoken to about assuming responsibility for your pets or children -- ensures your animals won't end up in a shelter and your children won't be at the center of a custody battle.
It also makes a lot of sense to provide financially for your children and pets in case something happens to you. This can mean buying life insurance and creating a trust so you can determine who will manage money for your pets and underaged children if something happens to you and you aren't there to provide for them.
Being prepared is priceless
While saving a lot of money for an emergency, buying comprehensive insurance and thinking about what could happen in a grave medical emergency are definitely not fun, once you've taken these key steps, you can rest assured you'll be in the best possible position to withstand a tragedy -- and can make sure your loved ones will be safe if the worst happens.
Take a few minutes to make your plans now, and then you can go right back to thinking happier thoughts with the added peace of mind of knowing you're prepared.