Whether leaving due to a fire, flood, vacation, or medical emergency, knowing that you have their essentials ready to go can make a huge difference. Older adults have more to worry about than younger households because the threat of an unexpected serious illness making it necessary to vacate with short notice is dramatically higher. In addition, if an older adult leaves home voluntarily on vacation, the chance of a medical emergency arising is also greater. Reducing stress and anxiety is a crucial factor in smooth sailing.
If an Act of God, such as a fire or storm, requires you to leave on short notice, it is harder for older adults to recover from that loss than younger adults. For one thing, walking is more difficult. Memory issues can impede recreating information. As we age, we become less able to deal with change or emotional loss. Living in strange spaces, shelters, or children’s homes is distressing. For better mental, emotional, and physical recovery, you need one person you can trust with all your important information.
The Savvy Six
Here are “THE SAVVY SIX” things you need to make plans for if you leave home for more than 24 hours for any reason. Proactively getting this list together will improve the quality of your life and guarantee you don’t have to spend hours recreating the wheel. They are:
- Personal computers. It is strange to put this item first, but I have a reason. Items 2 through 6 are all about physical things. But to not acknowledge that benefits of the digital age would be silly. Computers usually contain or can contain a lot of important documents, photos, and other files. However, no one travels with a desktop computer, and not all of us take our laptops either. You will grab it in an emergency, but what if you cannot? So what to do if an emergency strikes you or your home while you are away?
- People and Pets. Have a plan for taking care of pets and dependents. Ensure all information about where pets will be boarded, what they need and eat, vaccinations, and any quirks they have noted. If a spouse is in a nursing facility, ensure their whereabouts and particulars are known and documented. If caring for a dependent adult child, ensure that someone has agreed to be responsible for them if anything should happen to you. Memorialize all of this information in a document.
- Papers and phone numbers. Passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, real estate deeds, rental agreements, wills, trusts, etc. Essential phone numbers include doctors, relatives, legal and financial advisors, neighbors, friends, landlords, tenants, and veterinarians.
- Prescriptions & Toiletries. Taking pictures of your medicine bottles and uploading them to your computer is a smart move. Same with essential toiletries.
- Pictures and personal items. Photo albums, framed photos, irreplaceable memorabilia, art, jewelry, and valuables. Take pictures of these just in case.
- Plastics. Credit cards, ATM cards, insurance cards, ID. These can also be documented in pictures taken with a smartphone and uploaded.
The problem is you can’t take all these things with you on vacation or on a trip. Then in an emergency, you may not have time to grab them. Many of these items will be lost if you are away and your home is destroyed or damaged. Who will have the information you need to be taken care of if you get ill or injured? So what to do?
Some people use Cloud Storage, but many seniors are uncomfortable with that. In addition, you have to ensure that someone has the current password. Plus, it is a lot harder for many of us to make changes to documents in Cloud Storage, and you usually have to pay a monthly rental fee.
Keep it simple.
I think a USB drive is a simpler and more elegant solution. This is a small portable external hard drive you can keep and duplicate. It will guarantee that documents, information, pictures, and personal items can be duplicated and accounted for. They come in sizes from 4GB to 128 GB and larger. Buying one that has 128 GB capacity should be enough for most. Prices are usually from $20 to under $100.
All your documents can be saved in PDFs on your computer and your advisor or relative’s computer. This also makes changes more manageable and can be done immediately. In addition, other items can be photographed with a smartphone and the images uploaded too, like a passport, marriage license or birth certificate, or social security card.
All of “The Savvy Six” can be saved to your USB. And it is small enough even to carry on a key chain.
After you SAVE them into a file on the computer, you can SAVE AS on a USB drive, and you now have a portable duplicate; you can do this more than once. That way, you can keep one with you as you travel and give another to a trusted relative or advisor for safekeeping.
By all means, you should put yourself on a schedule to update once a year.
If you don’t want to do this yourself, there are many sources for senior concierge services that can help you do it.
Originally appeared 9/6/2018