A health crisis is defined as a negative change in mental or physical health or healthcare services. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), chronic illnesses are medical conditions that require consistent medical attention, last over a year, and diminish quality of life. A health crisis can result from many factors, including a sudden illness, accident, natural disaster, or unforeseen medical condition.

People who suffer from chronic illnesses are more likely to experience a health crisis, which is especially concerning since chronic illnesses and diseases are on the rise in the United States. Six out of 10 adults experience chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, and diabetes, according to the CDC. Healthcare crises are unique to each person and can cause intense emotional reactions in addition to the physical challenges. Because they are rarely predictable, it is important to be prepared for a health crisis to help make a difficult situation more manageable.

Below are five strategies that can help you prepare for a healthcare emergency:

1.  Be Aware. Be knowledgeable about your family’s medical history and the conditions for which you are most at risk. Work with your healthcare providers and track your health, use preventative care, attend regular check-ups, and recognize any abnormal, long-term (two or more weeks) changes in your health, no matter how minor they may seem.

2. Budget Emergency Funds. Hospital bills can add up quickly, so setting aside a little each month for an emergency healthcare fund can help offset financial strain. It can also be helpful to talk with a financial adviser about long-term and short-term healthcare options to help you prepare for an unexpected medical crisis.

3. Create an Emergency Plan. Create a simple plan regarding what you will do in case of a medical emergency. This could include who will take care of your children and pets, who needs to be contacted, the role or responsibility of each family member, etc.

4. Keep Medical Documents. Carry your insurance cards with you, and become familiar with your insurance plans and what they cover. Make sure you have documents that include your blood type, medications, medical history, and other relevant information. Store documents together in a safe and easily accessible place so you can refer to them quickly in the event of an emergency.

5.  Prepare a Will and Advanced Directives. A will is a legal document that explains the distribution of your possessions upon your death. It is important to prepare a will before a healthcare crisis occurs to give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.

Advanced directives are documents stating your wishes regarding medical treatment if you become unable to give consent due to a lack of lucidity or consciousness. Living wills are a subset of advanced directives and state your wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment if you become terminally ill and cannot give consent.

Because you cannot know when a health crisis will occur, the best strategy is to start preparing now. Being proactive allows you to implement thorough and thoughtful preparation that can help mitigate the impact of a healthcare emergency.

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