Seniors & Aging

Real Life | Personal Emergency First Responder To The Rescue!

Family emergencies “ain’t like they used to be!”

Picture this: You and beloved enjoy the good life in the retirement community, maybe hundreds of miles and days’ travel time from back home. The kids are scattered all over the world busily pursuing life and careers, and nurturing their own families. You two — or you one if beloved has passed away — are alone. Or beloved is incapacitated, and you’re on your own to keep everything going.

Now, picture this: The inevitable happens. Sudden illness or accident disables, or even terminates you. You or a neighbor manage the 911 call that brings the EMT first responders, and in only an instant of time you’re in the emergency room or the morgue.

At home, beloved needs help getting to his surgery appointment, dinner’s baking in the oven, Fido needs to do his outside business and his dinner, the shop’s calling to tell you that your car’s ready, you’re out of milk and bread, your brother’s just e-mailed you announcing his positive biopsy, you’re expecting the insurance agent in an hour, vital meds just arrived into your mailbox, and the water heater just failed. The kids and siblings need to be alerted immediately.

Or, maybe you are that already-overburdened and far-away family member, understandably worried about the old folks’ isolation, and suddenly disastered by the news of this catastrophic loved-one instant emergency.

Help! Somebody! Anybody!

It didn’t used to be like this. In Grandpa’s and Grandma’s day the house always bustled with family members, to jump right in and take over. Now there’s no one, except maybe only a well-meaning, limited-skills, limited-time-available neighbor.

And, within the next few hours or days, and until the family can drop everything and get to you and take over, a savvy substitute for you has to “hit the deck running” immediately. Then, you need him/her/them to penetrate the mystery (and nightmare?) of your records-keeping “system” to find and deliver your vital health care and estate plan documents, search for the information to notify everyone that needs to know and then call them, process the mail and the business, access some money and pay the bills, arrange for beloved’s care, and take care of you and all the other bits and pieces of your and maybe beloved’s lives’ business.

Reader Marge will quip: “All right, Smarty, I’m alone, and you’ve succeeded in worrying me. So, what to do about it?” OK, Marge, here’s a composite of ideas, some from readers like you: Fill the vacuum by selecting a “personal emergency first responder,” individual or team, a capable local someone(s) who has the life management skills knowledge, availability, family charisma, and ability to jump in and “stand in your shoes” instantly.

Do it now, because we can’t know our “3-D’s”, dates of disability, dementia, or death. When will yours be, hmmmmm?

Then familiarize and orient the PEFR about everything and about the family. Eliminate the information-discovery nightmare by creating and frequently updating your very own miraculous estate operators’ manual, your “doomsday file”, the single-source resource for every bit of information and records that PEFR (as well as the family and the estate plan fiduciaries) will need to operate the business of your and beloved’s life and estates.

Also give PEFR the other needed tools. Legally empower him/her/them to function, via powers of attorney, trustee appointments, and authorized user and authorized contact designations. You also can bestow agency powers upon PEFR via a signed and notarized “ancillary agent” agreement, a novel idea that works, and that you now might know about even before your attorney does. Of course, provide keys and access codes to the house, car, safes, shed, and files. If the PEFR doesn’t have instant access to the doomsday file, provide an exact copy.

FEPR will be the recipient of the initial surprise bad-news call from the 911-responders, hospital, or police. Of course, via your wallet-card, “file-of-life” info packet on your refrigerator door, and medical providers’ records, make sure that they’ll know whom to call. Then FEPR, following the godsend full instructions and information that you’ve provided in the “manual,” contacts everyone else who should get immediate alerts, takes over until family and fiduciaries can, and begins to coordinate and to orchestrate everyone and everything.

Marge, to cover all of the needs, or all of them, here are some FEPR candidates:

▪ Local family members – but only if they meet the criteria mentioned above, and you perform all of the orientation, tools, and coodination as though they were strangers.

▪ Neighbors and local acquaintances, but subject to the same caveats. They’ll likely serve for free, too.

▪ Church and membership club outreach volunteers and ombundsmen.

▪ Government agencies and community service foundations.

 Your professional and business team members in appropriate disciplines, ones that you already have a relationship with or likely soon will need to. They usually diligently provide FEPR service in addition to, or as part of, their main lines of work. They are compassionate good-guy/gal neighbors, and also because they recognize the need and their ability to fill the vacuum. In fairness, expect fees for at least part of their help, gratefully because they’re solving your otherwise vexing problem.

Among them are:

▪ Attorney and/or his/her paralegals and assistants.

▪ Nurse practitioner – Case manager engaged by you.

▪ Professional surrogate fiduciary practitioner firms.

▪ Home health care and logistical support agencies / individuals.

▪ Resident long-term care facilities and hospices.

▪ Financial planning / wealth management firms.

▪ Individual practitioners, usually retired professionals.

Firms that try to do everything, even create the “manual.”

And, so, Marge and everyone, let’s hope that we’ve helped to define the terrible potential problem for you, and that you now have some guidelines to help you fix it. When you've successfully finished setting everything up, what a relief and a joy!

As the holiday giving season approaches, let’s also note that – yes, admittedly a bit unique, but surely to be tremendously loving and appreciated — what a great gift to the family!

Contact Gary Newman at Your ideas and comments are always welcome.