With the advent of really good inventory management, we’ve been trained to wait to buy things until when we need them – just in time. However when inventory is managed so tightly, it’s a bit of a dance when demand picks up. (Think toilet paper). As a consequence many of us have begun to think about managing our lives less as “just in time” and instead thinking, hmmm, maybe I need that “just in case.”
We go to the hospital typically “just in time” when the need is urgent. While hopefully someone would always go with you, in our current environment, if you have to go to the hospital now you must assume you’re going to go alone. And that means it’s time to think about “just in case.” This is when having your ICE pack is critical. No, I’m not talking about a frozen object to keep things cold. I’m talking about an “In Case of Emergency” pack.
In fact federal emergency managers have been suggesting for some time that everyone should have an “In Case of Emergency” packet with them in case of a potential disaster, but going to the hospital alone, especially when you or a family member may have health conditions that an unfamiliar hospital won’t know about makes it even more important.
The goal of this “just in case” measure is to provide health care workers the information they need to take care of you if you aren’t able to communicate directly, and the documentation to allow them to speak to your family or friends that can’t be with you.
So what should be in your personal “In Case of Emergency” pack? Here’s a few things to consider (and in most cases these should be copies, not originals):
- Advance Directive for Healthcare. This is the document that legally defines who can speak for you to make healthcare decisions if you aren’t able to speak for yourself and it includes your wishes for care. You can download this document applicable for your state Another option is to consult with The Five Wishes, a document in plain English that identifies your wishes for all needs: medical, personal, emotional, and spiritual.
- Durable Power of Attorney. This legal document defines who can handle your financial affairs if you can’t. This can be important to set up payment for care. Keep in mind that your agent, the person you name to handle these affairs for you, doesn’t have responsibility for your bills, only for helping to write checks and make payments.
- Your health insurance card (or cards).
- A copy of a photo ID. BTW, if you live in a state where your driver’s license number is your social security number, black that number out on the copy you put in your ICE pack. No health care provider needs your social security number, even though most ask for it. But a picture ID that includes your birthday is important so emergency specialists know your age and who you are.
- A list of your current medications and drug allergies.
- A brief medical summary outlining any current diagnoses that you are being treated for and the physicians providing that care.
- An executed release of information. In addition to your Advance Directive for Healthcare, this release spells out who providers can share your medical information with. While the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) was well-intentioned, by now we all know it can be a barrier to communication if authorization to release your medical information to family and friends hasn’t been provided.
- Any important phone numbers. This can include the persons listed on your HIPAA release, your healthcare agent, your Power of Attorney, friends, and your primary care physician.
Nice to have:
- A spare charger for your cell phone (if you have one). In this time when family and friends can’t come to the hospital with you, making sure your phone has juice may well be your life line to your support.
- Things to keep you busy. A book or magazine can come in handy while you’re waiting. And yes, you’re likely to wait.
- Pen and paper. Assuming you’re able to speak for yourself, having something to write down what your physicians tell you will help you report back to your family and friends.
- Spare glasses and hearing aid batteries. If these are things you use in your day to day life, having extras in your ICE pack will make an emergency hospital visit more comfortable.
- Snacks are always good to have, but especially important if you are diabetic, or can’t go for extended periods without eating. In “normal” times a family member could go to a vending machine for you, but if you’re in an exam room that might not be so easy in those stylish hospital gowns.
It’s almost impossible to put together a personal ICE pack “just in time.” So if you couldn’t find toilet paper recently, consider putting your personal ICE pack together “just in case.” Call us. We can help.