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 a senior leaves home voluntarily on vacation, the chance of a medical emergency arising is also greater.
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 too. Walking is more difficult. Memory issues can impede recreating information. As we get older we become less able to deal with change or emotional loss. Living in strange spaces, shelters or children’s homes, is distressing. Having one trusted person with all your important information becomes essential for better mental, emotional and physical recovery.
I have what I call “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 after the fact recreating the wheel. They are:
1. 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 if you can, but what if you cannot? So what to do if an emergency strikes you or your home while you are away?
2. People and Pets. Have a plan for taking care of pets and dependents. Make sure all information about where pets will be boarded, what they need and eat, vaccinations and any quirks they have are noted. If a spouse is in a nursing facility, make sure their where about and particulars are known and documented. If caring for a dependent adult child, make sure that someone has agreed to be responsible for him or her if anything should happen to you. Memorialize all of this information in a document.
3. Papers and phone numbers. Passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, real estate deeds, rental agreements, wills, trusts, etc. Essential phone numbers including doctors, relatives, legal and financial advisors, neighbors, friends, landlord, tenants, veterinarian.
4. Prescriptions & Toiletries. Taking pictures of your medicine bottles and uploading to your computer is really a smart move. Same with essential toiletries.
5. Pictures and personal items. Photo albums, framed photos, irreplaceable memorabilia, art, jewelry and valuables too. Take pictures of these just in case.
6. Plastics. Credit cards, ATM cards, insurance cards, ID. These can also be documented in pictures taken with a smartphone and uploaded.
Problem is you can’t take all of these things with you on vacation or a trip and in an emergency you may not have time to grab them. If you are away and your home is destroyed or damaged, many of these items will be lost. If you get ill or injured, who will have the information you need to be taken care of? So what to do?
Some people use Cloud Storage, but many seniors are uncomfortable with that. In addition, then you have to make sure 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.
A simpler and elegant solution, I think, is a USB drive. This is small portable external hard drive that you can keep and duplicate. They come is sizes from 4GB to 128 GB and even bigger. Buying one that has 128 GB capacities should be enough for most. Prices are usually from $20 to under $100. It will guarantee that documents, information, pictures and personal items can be duplicated and accounted for. All of your documents can be saved in WORD docs on your computer and your advisor or relatives computer. This also makes changes easier and they can be done right away. Other items can be photographed with a smart phone and the images uploaded too; like a passport, marriage license or birth certificate, social security card. All of the Savvy Six can be saved to your USB. And it is small enough to even 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; and you can do this more than once. That way you can keep one with you as you travel, give another to a trusted relative or advisor for safekeeping.
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 to do it.
Marc has 36 years in financial services and 6 years in teaching.
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