You never know when you will be hit by a bus.
You may leave for school or work and an unfortunate incident occurs leaving you without the ability to think or act on your own. What do you do now? Your parents, a loved one, or a friend will need to step in and help navigate health issues, pay bills, and other keep things moving. My friend of 25+ years did not have any family in the United States and had a number of years ago asked if I would serve as Power of Attorney, (POA) HealthCare Surrogate and Trustee. I said yes. Little did I know then what would happen in a few years.
My friend Alma was born in Poland and came to the United States with her parents when she was eleven. She was an only child. She grew up in New York, was educated there, receiving her Ph.D. in Communications. She was a world traveler, avid reader, loved wine and eating out. She never married, and had no children. She lived in Coral Gables, right outside of Miami Florida.
Earlier this year I received a text from someone I did not know, simply saying they were Alma’s neighbors and to call ASAP. I called and spoke with this couple and found that Alma had gotten in her car, taken a wrong turn, and ended up in the Everglades where she ran out of gas. The police stopped and she had no idea how she arrived there and was confused as to whom she was. They called EMS and took her to the hospital and impounded her car. The couple was on their way to the hospital to bring her home. I hung up the phone and thought to myself, this is not good!
These folks were nice enough to go fill up the car with gas and drive it home. Maybe this is the end of things. Not! Several days later, I received another call from the same neighbors saying she had just called from the computer store and walked outside and could not remember where she was or how to return home. So, the folks got in their car and rescued Alma again, bringing her home.
By now, I had met another condo neighbor who was a “wine buddy” of Alma’s. He proceeded to tell me that he had noticed slight changes in Alma since the fall of 2022. He thought it was probably the infusion she was taking for her cancer. Also, I connected with another friend whom I had met several years earlier when I spoke to the company that she and Alma were employed. She and I became very close, very quickly.
A few weeks later I received a call from the condo neighbors saying Alma had missed the “wine party” in the building. Alma thoroughly enjoyed her wine and would not have missed a wine party. However, she did. The neighbor was going to stop by and see if things were okay. When she rang the doorbell, Alma finally came to the door, cracked it open just a bit, and proceeded to fall down. The neighbor pulled the door open to find Alma with black and blue knees and they were quite swollen. This would not have come from a single fall but rather multiple ones. EMS was called and they called me. I spoke to the EMS saying “yes, please take Alma to the hospital”. The neighbor accompanied Alma and off they went. From this point forward Alma went from hospitals to rehabilitation facilities and never returned to her condo. She lived several months in a memory care facility and then passed.
I tell you this back story to sit the stage for the subsequent blogs I will write on this subject. Life can change very quickly. Things like this happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and for a host of reasons. No matter your age or current situation, something can happen.
Word to the wise, if you are asked to be a POA, Health Care Surrogate or Trustee for a loved one or friend, make sure you ascertain what is expected of these roles. You will find there is a great deal of responsibility and work involved, far beyond what was probably thought. You will need to keep track of time spent serving in these roles as there may be a nominal fee given.
The next blogs in this series will speak to things that everyone needs to do to be prepared if something like this happens. People think this stuff happens to only older people and that is not true.
So, let’s get prepared.