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By Victoria Schmidt

Be Prepared

 

As retirees, we’ve reached one very uncomfortable stage in our lives. Our friends are becoming seriously ill, and they are dying.  I’ve lost several friends this past year. I remember my grandmother talking to me about this stage in her life. It was the time when she would read the obituaries and have to schedule whose funeral she needed to attend. She was sad because her friends were dying and she was lonely.  At that time, she was 80.  She told me she was “ready to go.”  But she lasted another 21 years.

We don’t like to think of illness or death. We don’t want to think of ourselves as becoming infirm, or needing help. But we are now at the point where we cannot put off major decisions.

As I was beginning to write my column tonight, I received a call telling me that another friend had died.  She lived here alone. Several of her closer friends spent most of the last week trying to take care of her.  They brought her food she would not eat.  They hired a nurse to bathe her and change her. They found someone to clean her house, and when she started to go downhill, they got her to the Red Cross, contacted the Canadian Consulate, and finally were able to track down her son.

Her paperwork was not in order, and people who were trying to help her were hamstrung by not knowing whom to call, or how to access information to help her pay for her medical care.  They felt helpless and frustrated.

One of our responsibilities as expats living so far away from our families, is that we must take the time to get our lives in order so that we can help other people help us when the need arises.

In 1999 I suffered a very serious illness and ended up in a coma.  My husband was totally lost because I kept all the information, and he didn’t know how to access anything.  I learned from this experience, and it is something I believe strongly that every person should have written down, and easily accessible in case of an emergency.

In my own case, I have a file in my computer, and my best friend has been told how to access this file.  This file contains emergency contact names and telephone numbers, where our wills are located, who our doctors are, our Post Life Planning information, insurance information, bank accounts, access codes, medication lists, a list of who we owe money to, and when and how payments are made. Because of my husband’s health issues, I know he will need someone to help him with this information should anything happen to me. But someone needs access to this information should anything happen to both of us.  I update the files as often as necessary.

This need isn’t limited to the older residents. I have a young American friend who is only 31 years old, but due to recent medical issues, I had to locate his family in the USA. At present, he’s unable to be at home, and I wonder, who is feeding his cats? Who has keys in case of emergencies such as this?  Shouldn’t we have someone watching the house while he’s away?

Another friend died very unexpectedly recently.  Before he died, I sent emails to people trying to find help, blood donors, etc.  Eventually, my emails were forwarded to his family who were trying desperately to get information. But by the time they reached me, their brother, father, and uncle…had died. Had that information been available, these people could have had the closure they needed, rather than an email from a complete stranger saying, “I am so sorry to have to be the one to tell you…”

So I implore each and every expat at Lakeside. Get your affairs in order.  Register with your Consulate. Fill out the appropriate paper work. Put your essential information on paper. Give this information to a trusted friend so when illness, emergencies or death strikes, those of us here that love you, can help you as well as your loved ones in your nation of origin.

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