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Planning Can Better Prepare Families

Planning is the best way to prepare for the unexpected, including making sure that the proper documentation for your loved one is in order and that someone in the family knows where it is.

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Family caregivers often live in fear of an emergency call that an older loved one needs assistance. The Senior Emergency KitSM can help caregivers be prepared. Visit for resources that include checklists and worksheets for medications, conditions, allergies, doctors, health advisors and important documents.

Q. I worry about something happening to my 82-year-old mother, who lives alone. How can we be better prepared for an emergency and what important documents should she have handy in the event of illness or injury?

Planning is the best way to prepare for the unexpected. You can start by making sure that the proper documentation for your mother is in order and that someone in the family knows where it is.

A contact list and telephone numbers of all of the important people that your mother deals with is vital. These should include attorneys, accountants, doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, etc. It's important, too, to have a list of your mom's current medications and the dosages so that emergency workers have that available in the event of illness or injury. Visit for more information and resources to compile and track this vital information.

You'll also want to be sure that your mother's important documents are safe but accessible. For instance, have access to a list of her assets, along with numbers of bank and financial accounts, and insurance policies. Originals of documents such as a will or a power of attorney should be kept in a safety deposit box or at an attorney's office. But it's a good idea to keep copies at home. Titles and deeds to property and vehicles also are important pieces of information to have handy. In addition, make sure someone in the family knows the location of the safety deposit box and keys.

Communication is key to helping your family cope in an emergency. Advance directives that specify what action your loved one would want taken in a crisis should be visible for an emergency team. Talk with your mother about how she would want her affairs handled before a crisis occurs.

Advance planning and communication also can help avert a disaster. Locate people in your mom's community who can meet any needs for in-home, home health and long-term care. One of those resources is your Home Instead® office, which provides at-home support and companionship. Home Instead CAREGiversSM are screened, bonded and insured, and have completed a comprehensive, customized caregiving and safety curriculum. CAREGiver services are available for as few as three hours and as many as 24 hours, seven days a week including holidays.

Last revised: May 23, 2011

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