A John Lennon song says, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” That observation is certainly true, and that’s why some of us don’t bother with plans.
I’ve drifted along in life, amazed that other people have an answer when asked, “Where do you expect to be in five years?” The fact that I never formulate plans doesn’t mean that I am against making them; in fact, I always intend to make them tomorrow. Procrastination is my problem, and I guess I’ll worry about it one day.
What brings this to mind is a packet of information my niece Carol Peters sent me for a project she and her family started called Practically Prepared. It is based on the realization that many people are caught unprepared when faced with an emergency. They don’t have plans—at least not plans to handle the unexpected.
Carol said that happened to her some years ago when she and her husband, George, were driving from Florida to their home in Richmond, Virginia. George was behind the wheel of their 36-foot motorhome when he began feeling tightness in his chest, and told Carol that he needed to hurry home and that she would have to drive. She had never driven a motorhome before.
“I drove all night stopping only for gas, and a long night it was,” Carol said. Along the way, she worried that she might have to find a hospital emergency room at any moment, and she thought of all the things she didn’t know: CPR, her husband’s medications, what their insurance covered, etc. “ I was totally unprepared for what was happening to us at that moment,” she said.
Carol and George made it home safely, and Carol vowed to be better prepared for whatever crisis might lie ahead.
Their daughter, Cassandra Emery, faced an emergency this year while on vacation with her husband, and 2-year-old son, Eli. The child suffered a seizure, and emergency responders peppered Cassandra with questions about his allergies, medical history and medications. She needed to give all that information and think quickly and clearly while trying hard to stay calm.
These experiences made it clear to Carol, George and Cassandra that you need to be prepared when an emergency strikes. Thus was born their project, Practically Prepared, which gives people the tools to assemble all the information they might need in a crisis.
They’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what would help medical personnel and your family members if you had a medical emergency and were unable to communicate, and also about what your heirs would need if (make that when) you die.
Of course, everyone knows you should have a will and provide instructions on what to do if you become hopelessly incapacitated. But that’s just the beginning if you want to be ready for accidents and illnesses and all the many other things that can befall us in life.
Would your neighbors know whom to notify in an emergency? Would your heirs know where to look for important papers? Is a list of your medications and allergies readily accessible?
There’s a lot to consider, and Practically Prepared has amassed a long list of forms you can fill out on paper or as an electronic file and share with your family and emergency contacts.
Cassandra Emery, who was executive director of the YWCA in Richmond before starting Practically Prepared with her parents, breaks down what you need to do as three steps: document, plan and share. The first task is to gather all the information—from your medical history, prescriptions and names of physicians, to the locations of your assets, such as bank accounts, insurance policies, investments and retirement accounts and put the information where it is readily accessible when needed.
Then you may need to do some planning if you haven’t already. You will need a will or living trust along with a living will or other document to guide medical decisions.
Finally, you will need to share the information. Cassandra suggests you discuss your plans with close family members so they understand the choices you have made for your medical care. She also suggests putting medical information, such as prescriptions and allergies, on a single sheet of paper and sharing it with a neighbor in case the neighbor has to call 911 for you. And it’s also a good idea to carry that information and emergency contact numbers in your wallet, she says. RVers could also put important information on a flash drive to take with them on their travels.
You can find more about all this online at practically-prepared.com.
My niece sent me Practically Prepared forms at the beginning of the year, and I confess that I am just starting to fill them out. Procrastination again. I need to assemble this information before an emergency arrives, but I am slow and not anxious to complete one of the last tasks, which is the form for writing my own obituary.
When I worked at a newspaper, it was common to have reporters write their obituary to be filed away for use at the appropriate moment. I didn’t mind doing that as an invincible young reporter, but now that I am well past the usual retirement age, I feel different about it. That may be one of those tasks that I will always save for tomorrow.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Find “First Glance” online at rvlife.com.