How to Handle a Parent’s Unexpected Illness or Injury

  How to Handle a Parent’s Unexpected Illness or Injury

(And how to Prepare for the Inevitable)

It can be somewhat easier to prepare and care for a parent with a chronic illness. Knowing what needs to be done when there is an accident or sudden illness is more difficult. There can be so many unanswered questions. Be sure to ask these questions before there is an issue, if possible:

Are there bills that need to be paid?

What insurance coverage do they have beyond Medicare?

Does Hospice or a home health care provider need to be called?

Is it still safe to be home alone or is it time for assisted living?

Is there a durable power of attorney?

Is there a DNR order or Advanced Directive on file with the state?

Are there bills that need to be paid?

Here are some basic questions to ask your parent(s):

  1. Do you pay bills online?
  2. Is your Social Security automatically deposited into your bill pay account?
  3. Are there any bills you pay by check?
  4. Do you have the user names and passwords written down for your banking and credit sites?

What insurance coverage do they have beyond Medicare?

It is important to know who their secondary insurance carrier is and whether the premium needs to be paid. Get a copy of the policy or make sure you know where the files are kept. Also, have the agent’s name, if appropriate.

There may be questions about what is covered and what deductibles need to be met.

Does Hospice or a home health care provider need to be called?

Is your parent terminal? If so, be sure to call their local Hospice. The Hospice program is wonderful and comprehensive. They will assist your parents in their own home with medical issues, personal hygiene, religious needs, stress management, and more.

Home health care providers will come to the home and assist with any nursing and physical therapy needs.

Is it still safe to be home alone or is it time for assisted living?

If your parent is living alone and plans to return home after any hospitalization, then you may want to check with Hospice or home health care to make sure the home is safe enough.

Hospice can help with medical supplies, grab bars, wheel chairs, commodes, walkers, shower seats, and much more.

Depending on your parent’s autonomy, there are assisted living places that offer an onsite apartment with the ability to move to more comprehensive care when necessary.

Is there a durable power of attorney?

A durable power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions on behalf of your parent when they are not able to decide for themselves.

It is very important that someone in your family has a durable power of attorney—preferably someone who lives close to your parent(s). If both parents are alive, then the spouse should be the primary DPA, if capable.

Is there a DNR order or Advanced Directive on file with the state and the doctor’s office?

Make certain your parent(s) has created an Advanced Directive or DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) with their physician and that it is filed with the state.

The advanced directive specifies if and when to proceed with life-saving treatment. For example, your parent might want to be resuscitated if quality of life will not be dramatically affected, but may choose not to be if they will be in a vegetative state.

Check to see if their wishes are spelled out to their satisfaction (or yours if your parent is unable).

One last note

Did you know there are universities that will take your parent’s body and use it for medical training and then will cremate the body for you at no charge? They will even spread the ashes for you if you don’t want to do it yourself.

Check with your local hospice center for the school names and requirements.

It’s never easy to face your parents’ mortality, but if you and they are prepared then the process will more pain-free and will make meeting their urgent needs smoother and less stressful for all.

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