Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Plan for the Unexpected Hospitalization or Long-Term Illness

I've been thinking about how things were when I first got sick. Likely because it's been one year since I woke up last November, but I actually started getting sick when school started in August/September. I just ignored the signs until I was in the ICU and in a coma on a ventilator. I think about my son coming to see me in the ICU with all the tubes and machines beeping around me. I don't even try to think about what was going on with my son while I was in the coma, or what he was thinking when he saw me so sick. It's pretty much a blank spot in my life. It upsets me too much.

Recently, a classmate at my son's school had her mom end up in the hospital with a serious illness. Her father had to stay with the mother for various reasons - one being he's disabled himself. They didn't have an emergency plan in place for someone to care for their daughter. She stayed with another mom from the school for almost a week. It was like watching what everyone went through when it was me, but I was on other side this time.

Honestly, I thought I had a plan in place if something happened. I had my ex-husband's number in my phone as the ICE contact. I thought everyone knew to call the ex if something happened, or had his number, so he could pick up our son and care for him. I was very wrong. I don't know how it all fell apart, but my cell phone battery died, and it had a screen lock on it that no one could get past anyway. For some reason my sons's teacher claimed she didn't know how to reach my ex, even though the school sends mail addressed to him to my house, and it's all over the EMERGENCY contact card. I can't even begin to tell you how pissed I was to hear that when I woke up - among other irritations.

I have a better plan now. I have to have a plan after seeing how quickly things can go wrong. As a single mom, it's not like I had a partner that was at home calling everyone to update them. No partner to watch my son while I went into respiratory failure and almost died. I was lucky enough to have my mom in town when they admitted me to the hospital initially. Ironically, I texted her that they were about to intubate me. But on a normal day, my son goes with me almost everywhere. He would've been with me that day too. I missed his Halloween party instead.

Everyone needs an emergency plan for their kids if something unexpected happens. Everyone plans for the future for their kids if they die, but what if you're alive but in the hospital long-term? Who cares for you children? Especially single mothers! Who would call your ex or your family to come care for your child. Do you have a living will or a medical plan in place? Do you have someone to handle any paperwork or make phone calls? Does EVERYONE know how to reach the care provider you want for your child so they can get your child? If you lock your cell phone, do you have an external method for family or hospitals to reach your contacts?

Create a phone list that you share with friends and family. Make sure everyone in your circle understands what you need them to do if you can't communicate. Make sure everyone knows where your child is supposed to go and how to reach those people. Have your child's insurance information and a signed document giving the caregiver permission to care for the child -- even if it's your ex! Single moms, be sure to add the caveat that it's only until you're well. Custody battles in court are ugly without documentation.

It sucks to think about your kid being cared for by someone else. I know because I lived through it and didn't know if he'd be able to even come home again. Sometimes it's the only option. Friends can't take care of your child long-term. They can't. It's not realistic. Legally or emotionally, it's not a good idea for your child. Even if you have family "issues," sometimes you have to suck it up and let them help you (unless it's dangerous obviously).

So get your phone tree in order, put together your child care documents, and make sure you communicate with friends and family what you need done if there's an emergency or you're hospitalized long-term. You'd be surprised how much you think you have in place, only to find out it's really not. By then it's too late.

2 comments:

marilyncavicchiaeditorpoet said...

These are great tips. I need to think about this stuff even though I'm not a single parent -- and a will, too.

Jennifer said...

Every parent should definitely have a plan in place in case both parents aren't able to communicate! Hopefully, in the case of a couple, one partner would know who to call or what to do.

The medical directive in case you're incapacitated is really important. Making sure someone knows your medical wishes and is in charge means less likelihood of legal battles with your family members. I never thought of any of this before getting sick.

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