Forbes - How To Prepare For A Prolonged Hospital Stay
Posted on 31 August, 2020
Written by Carolyn McClanahan for Forbes
The current pandemic has drastically changed the daily routine for most of us. Especially in current hotspots, it is important to have masks and access to hand washing or sanitizers available pretty much every time you step outside your door.
As the number of those infected rise, you may have the experience of family, friends, or acquaintances coming down with serious illness, and it may hit you that you too may become ill. Are you prepared for a prolonged illness or hospital stay?
No one is truly prepared to be sick, but if you have planned in advance for the logistics of illness, you can use more of your energy for healing instead of struggling to get help. This article outlines what you need to do to be prepared before a prolonged illness strikes.
Automatic Bill Pay
Automatic bill pay is a game changer in simplifying finances and it is a double-edged sword.
Because it is easy and convenient, too many people who streamline their bill paying through automatic payments become lazy and don’t check the monthly statements for accuracy. Many also forget to cancel services they no longer utilize.
Given that caveat, I recommend having one credit card that is used for automatic bill pay for every bill possible and ideally nothing else, and then paying that credit card off each month in full using automatic bill pay through your checking.
Why go this route instead of checking directly?
It is much easier to challenge a credit card mistake than it is to get money returned to your checking account. If there is a withdrawal you don’t know about and your checking balances are low, you could also incur fees and headaches from overdrafts. Finally, less access to your checking reduces the potential breaches of the account where your real money resides!
Simplify Your Finances
The fewer accounts you have floating out there, the less likely mistakes will occur and money will be lost. Ideally you should have no more than one account each for your checking, savings, workplace investing, Roth, IRA, and taxable brokerage account. Have two credit cards you use – ideally one for bill pay and one for everything else.
Designate Your Financial Surrogate
Everyone needs a financial surrogate they can trust – and trust is key! Appoint someone you are absolutely certain will act in your best interest at all times.
The most important document in the event of an illness is a “Power of Attorney” form that designates who will manage your finances should you lose the ability to do so – even if the event is temporary.
The power of attorney form should be no more than 10 years old and ideally prepared by a licensed attorney. Why? Institutions often reject documents that are not their own forms. In an emergency, if an institution is giving your financial surrogate grief over the power of attorney form, the drafting attorney can write a “nastygram” to the institution pointing out their failure of honoring a perfectly legal form and threaten legal action.
There are legal forms that can be produced on the web in a pinch, but it is better not to rely on these as there is no human back up to help your financial surrogate if needed.
Educate Your Financial Surrogate
Make sure your surrogate knows how to access your finances. Have an organized area set aside with a list of your bills, accounts, passwords and the logistics of how you pay your bills. Show them the files and walk them through account access.
If you are healthy and there is no known health event on the horizon, you don’t need to give account access or passwords yet. But if symptoms of COVID-19 start or you receive a positive test, meet with your surrogate as soon as possible to review your financial situation. The situation can become serious in a matter of days so you don’t want them to be blindsided.
Understand Your Health Insurance
Most insurance companies are providing breaks for coronavirus treatment. However, with our convoluted billing system, it is possible you will face billing snafus. Know what doctors and hospitals are covered under your insurance and stick to those providers to prevent out of network billing issues.
While in the hospital, continually insist they use providers who are in network, including putting a note above your bed. On all financial documents, add the line, “Use in-network providers and services only.” Document as much as possible about the services provided in case billing issues arise later.
The pandemic is a good excuse to create a will. Although the chance of death is not high, it is a potential outcome. Either way, we all die at some point and having a will can save your family much angst and money. This is especially important if you have minor children.
Check the beneficiary designations on all your financial accounts so they reflect your wishes. Leaving assets directly to heirs prevents the need for probate and allows easy transfer so your loved ones have access to financial resources quickly.
Name a guardian for your children and make sure that person is willing to take over. Have a conversation about expectations and how you’ve prepared for the children financially.
Appoint a health care surrogate and complete your health directives. Hopefully you’ll retain full capability to make your health care decisions, but someone needs to be appointed just in case you don’t. Share your health care wishes with them in advance.
If you have pets, create a pet care plan that outlines their feeding schedule, special needs, and veterinarian contact. If you don’t have someone willing to care for your pet, ask your vet if they can recommend someone or find a pet sitter on Rover.com.
Who will take care of house maintenance? Create a list of instructions for tasks that need to be done on a regular basis – plant care, yard work, appliance maintenance such as water softeners and any other items that may fail from neglect.
Illness can strike at any time, and the pandemic is a call to action to get your affairs in order. Recovering from illness is tough, and knowing that your affairs are being handled will help reduce your stress and allow you to focus on getting back to a healthy life.
Written by Carolyn McClanahan for Forbes
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