I was at the Texas Medical Center some time ago, visiting my father. I found myself rifling through the drawers in his room, I guess for toiletries I could steal. Old habits die hard.

I discovered a checklist in one of the drawers, inside a waterproof sleeve, What Matters in Case of Emergency. Behind the checklist were several blank forms: a Medical Care Sheet to list the patient’s doctors and medical issues, a Medication List for prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and a Contact List for the patient, family, preferred hospital, and primary physician.

The instructions suggested completing the packet at a regular scheduled doctor’s appointment, and then attaching a copy of insurance cards, driver’s license, and advance directive.

What valuable, practical advice.

Download the Emergency Room Visit Checklist.

You should add a copy of your statutory durable power of attorney (your agent might need to update a billing address), medical power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization, in addition to the documents the checklist suggests.

Texas does not have a registry for medical directives. No one will know you have a medical power of attorney or a directive to physicians unless you tell them. No one cares unless you give them a copy.

It makes sense to leave copies of your medical directives with your estate planning attorney and with your physician, but no one runs to their lawyer in a medical crisis. For that matter, no one runs to their doctor, either. They go to the emergency room. And the copies you left with your doctor and lawyer just aren’t that helpful as you sit in the ER and watch your life flash before your eyes.

Anyone drawing Social Security should probably put this information together. I would add a copy of your medical power of attorney (to designate someone in charge when you can’t speak for yourself) and HIPAA authorization (to give family permission to ask questions). A business power of attorney makes sense, too, so that if you are discharged to skilled nursing someone else can sign the admissions paperwork for you.

You’re not going to the emergency room on your best day. You’re going on your worst. It’s not realistic to think you can remember this information while you’re filling out questionnaires in the ER. It’s also cruel to leave the task of collating all this to the family that’s already stressed and hard-pressed to manage themselves, much less you.

Once done, keep the packet by your front door, or even in your car, but redact Social Security numbers and dates of birth if leaving the packet any place unsecure.

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