April 15, 2024

How to Prepare for a Healthcare Crisis

Emily Roundy, Health & Wellness Intern & Dr. Ashley Yaugher, Health & Wellness/HEART Faculty

woman in hospital

A health crisis is defined as a negative change in your mental health, physical health, or healthcare services. Chronic illnesses are medical conditions which require consistent medical attention, last over a year, and diminish your quality of life (CDC, 2022a). People who suffer from chronic illnesses are more likely to experience a health crisis. This is especially concerning because chronic illnesses and diseases are on the rise in the United States. Six out of 10 adults experience chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, and diabetes (CDC, 2022a). Healthcare crises are unique to each individual and their situation and therefore can be difficult to navigate and cause intense emotions or reactions (Runciman & Merry, 2005). Because healthcare crises are rarely predictable, it can be helpful to prepare for the event of one, as this can help make the situation more manageable.

Below are five strategies that can help you start to prepare for a healthcare crisis:

  1. Be Aware: Be aware of your family’s medical history, and the conditions you are most at risk for. Work with your provider(s) to maintain your health and manage any conditions. It is important to track your health, utilize preventative care, attend regular check-ups, and recognize any abnormal, long-term (two or more weeks) changes in your normal health no matter how subtle they may seem (Healthy People 2030, 2023).
  2. Budget Emergency Funds: Hospital bills can be expensive, setting aside a little each month for an emergency fund can help offset financial strain (Mid Penn Bank, 2022). It can also be helpful to talk with a financial adviser to help with your individual needs or situations in the event of an unexpected medical crisis (SAMHSA, n.d.).
  3. Create an Emergency Plan: Work on your own, or with your family to create a simple plan for what you will do in case of medical emergencies. This could include who will take care of the kids/pets in the event of an emergency, what numbers to call, and/or the role or responsibility each family member will have (CDC, 2022b).
  4. Keep Medical Documents: Carry your insurance cards with you and be familiar with your insurance (e.g., your insurance plans and what they cover). Make sure you have documents which include blood type, medications, medical history, and any other information documenting individual needs stored together in a safe and easily accessible place to refer to in an emergency (e.g., 211.org; Meyer, 2009).
  5. Prepare a Will and Advanced Directives: A Will is a legal document that explains the distribution of your possessions if you were to pass away. It can be helpful to prepare a Will before a healthcare crisis or during one, to have peace of mind about your wishes. Advanced directives are documents stating the owner’s wishes regarding medical treatment if they are unable to give consent, due to lack of lucidity or consciousness. Living Wills are a subset of advanced directives and state the owner’s wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment if you become terminally ill and cannot give consent (Meyer, 2009; Nationwide 2021).

Because we cannot always know when a healthcare crisis might occur, the best tip for preparing for a healthcare crisis is to take preventative measures and be prepared in advance. Of utmost importance is being aware of your medical history and working with your provider(s). The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that we go to the doctor sooner rather than later and get regular screenings where possible (Healthy People 2030, 2020). By also taking steps to prepare a Will, budgeting for emergency funds, creating an emergency plan, having necessary documents, and knowing your resources, you will be as prepared as possible for a health crisis.

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day, learn more here:

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