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Plan ahead for a hospital visit: Talk to the people you love about these seven important items

Written by Diane Archer

Few of us think about preparing in advance for a hospital visit, for someone we love, let alone ourselves. But, eventually, most of us will make a visit as a caregiver or a patient. Talking to the people you love about their needs while they are in relatively good health can ease the stress and reduce the costs of these hospital stays, particularly in emergencies. Here are seven important ways to prepare:

  1. Identify someone you trust to serve as your “health care proxy”–someone who can speak for you about your health care wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself. Make sure the person you choose as your proxy knows and talk to the person about the kind of care you want. Ideally, you should complete a an advance directive, which includes a health care proxy document (available for download for free here) and give a copy to your proxy or tell your proxy where to find it. You should give a copy to your doctor as well.  Here’s more information on the importance of a health care proxy.
  2. Ask a family member or someone else you trust to be your health care buddy and agree to accompany you to the hospital and stay with you if you are hospitalized. A second set of eyes and ears can be critical to your well-being.
  3. Make a list of your medications and your doctors. You should keep the list in your phone or your wallet and share the list with your health care proxy and family members.
  4. Decide which ambulance company will be called if needed. Make sure you have the phone number of a Medicare-approved ambulance company on hand or, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the name and number of an in-network ambulance company. Here are two ways to make sure Medicare covers ambulance services.
  5. Decide which hospital you want to use. If you are not enrolled in traditional Medicare, make sure the hospital is in your network and that it gets a good rating for patient safety. Talk to your doctor about your choice. Here’s more information on choosing a hospital.
  6. Make sure you know what to bring with you to the hospital and what you should leave behind, such as valuables. Here’s a good checklist.
  7. Before you leave the hospital, make sure you have a written discharge plan, along with a phone contact at the hospital, schedule a follow-up appointment, and make a list of any new medications. Here’s a good checklist.

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