Archive for April 2011
Nearly everyone is familiar with 911 – the three-digit number you call for emergency help. Also familiar is 411. That’s the local and long distance telephone directory service number for the United States and Canada. When you need a phone number, you can call 411 for help.
Not as familiar is 211. “211″ is an easy to remember telephone number that connects callers to information about critical health and human services available in their community. This service started in 2000 when the Federal Communications Commission set this number aside as an easy-to-remember and universally recognizable number that would help individuals and families in need connect with the appropriate help organizations and government agencies in their local communities.
How 211 works
211 works somewhat like 911. The local telephone company routes calls to 211 to a local or regional calling center. The 211 center is staffed by trained referral specialists. When you call 211, a specialist will ask you questions to learn your specific needs. The specialist then checks databases that list resources available from private and public health and human service agencies. They match your needs to available resources close to where you live, and will link or refer you directly to an agency or organization that can help.
Types of Referrals Offered by 211
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following list of information services available through 211:
While services that are offered through 211 vary from community to community, 21-1 provides callers with information about, and referrals to, human services for every day needs and in times of crisis. Currently, active 211 systems cover all or part of 39 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. You can learn if 211 services are offered in your area and obtain more information, by visiting www.211.org.
Finding local sources of help can be a real challenge for caregivers. A good first place to start is to call 211. By simply dialing 211, you can be referred, and sometimes connected, to appropriate agencies and community organizations.
I recently learned that April 16th is NHDD. NHDD is National Healthcare Decisions Day. The goal of NHDD is to encourage individuals and families to discuss healthcare decision-making and advance planning. It is an opportunity to explore how your loved one feels about end of life care. It is a reminder to us caregivers to talk with our loved ones about their treatment wishes. And it is a timely reminder that we need to ensure their wishes are followed by creating an advanced directive and having someone appointed to speak for them when they cannot.
What are advanced directives?
Advanced directives are written documents that have two important purposes:
Advanced directives make a difference
I am very grateful that Dad had advanced directives – a living will and healthcare proxy. He had these documents drawn up when he created his will. Dad’s living will gave his doctors instructions on how he wanted to be cared for when he could not make decisions for himself. During those times he was too ill to direct his care, it guided the treatment he received. Dad and I discussed his wishes on a number of occasions. Still, I relied on his living will to help me during times of critical illness. And I relied on Dad’s healthcare proxy constantly. That document allowed me to get all his medical information and ensured that I was a pivotal member of his care team.
There are resources available to help you understand your options and create an advanced directive. You’ll find all the resources listed below at The National Healthcare Decisions Day website along with many others as well.
Resources for making decisions
There are resources available to help you discuss future healthcare wishes and make decisions:
Creating an advanced directive
There are a numbers of ways to create an advanced directive. Certainly, an attorney can draw one up for you. But it isn’t necessary to have an attorney created the advanced directive. You can create one yourself. Here a few options to consider:
If your loved one is hospitalized, the hospital may be able to help you. Many hospitals have programs that have a trained social worker or other professional available to discuss living wills and help you create a valid document.
Using an advanced directive
Advanced directives aren’t meant to be hidden away in a safety deposit box. They are living, working documents. Sharing copies with your loved one’s doctors, especially their primary care doctor, can help the doctor understand and follow your loved one’s choices. The person or persons named as healthcare representatives should have copies so that they care share them when necessary.
It’s important to have the advanced directive readily available so that you can find it quickly in an emergency. I recommend keeping copies as part of your emergency information kit.
Thoughts for the caregiver
As your loved one’s caregiver, do you understand their wishes about treatment? Even though they may have an advanced directive, it helps to talk to your loved one about these issues. The advanced directive will tell you what they wish. But it won’t tell you why they made these choices and what their true feelings are. You will be truly grateful to have these conversations as your guide during times of crisis.
Remember, this is not about what you think is best for the person. You need to base decisions that you make for your loved one’s well being on what your loved one wants, not what you would want for yourself. It may be the hardest thing you ever have to do for your loved one. Yet it’s the greatest act of love and fulfillment of trust you can make.
Dad had a way of tracking phone numbers. He would make a list on the computer and print it out. Then he would put the list by each phone in the house. Whenever he needed a number, he just checked his list. It worked well for him. He took special delight when I would mention I needed a particular number. Put it on the list he would say.
This was a bit old fashioned. But then, Dad never got the knack of loading phone numbers into his cell phone. Today, we keep all our important numbers in our cell phone. I don’t know about you, but for me, having a number on speed dial means that I don’t have to remember it. When someone asks for a particular number, though, I fumble around with my phone until I locate it. It works, but Dad would say, it is easier to find the phone number on the list.
When it comes to having emergency numbers at your fingertips when you need them, a cell phone can a lifesaver. A simple speed dial and you reach your emergency contact immediately. So, I wonder, does my cell phone make that printed list obsolete?
Keeping a paper list
It’s possible to keep all your emergency numbers on your cell phone. You will be able to get help quickly, especially if you have the numbers on speed dial. However, Dad was right too. It is a good idea to have your emergency phone number list written out. Emergencies seem to happen at the most inconvenient times. You may not be home and someone else will need the information. Your phone may not work. You may need to delegate making an emergency call to someone else so that you can help your loved one. So what numbers should be on my emergency list?
Numbers for the emergency phone number list
Here’s a list of numbers to put on your emergency phone number list:
Creating your emergency list is easy. You’ll find a free form that you can fill out on your computer here on the At My Fingertips website.
Putting a copy of the list by each phone in your home is a great idea. Since most folks keep phone numbers on the refrigerator, having a phone number there makes sense as well. Additionally, first responders are trained to look on the refrigerator for helpful information.
Have you found other ways to manage emergency phone numbers? Please let me know what works best for you.