Creating a Crisis File for a ‘What If’ Event

Health & Wellness
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Large stack of files, paperwork. Desk, office, computer.

It is not uncommon to talk about what you might do in a particular health or life situation. I call these “What If” discussions. However, what may be an abstraction can become a reality in a matter of seconds.

A very long time ago I married my wife. We were young, and I was in medical school. She paid all the bills and kept very organized files. As the internet evolved, all the bills arrived online. Almost 10 years ago, she suddenly became critically ill while we were away at our cabin in the forests of Idaho. Within hours she was on a ventilator and unable to communicate. Fortunately, all I needed was the password to her phone to get access to most of what I would need. In our many years of marriage, I had never been in her purse, but now I found myself searching for her insurance cards, accessing all her information on her phone and then trying to figure out where I could safely hide/store her purse.

However, when the hospital asked for a copy of her Advanced Directive and Medical Power of Attorney, I realized they were back in Texas, and we didn’t travel with copies. Fortunately, our attorney quickly faxed copies to the hospital. The good news is that she made a complete recovery and is back in charge of keeping things organized.

We quickly realized, though, that we needed a “crisis file” to give to our son and a copy we could carry with us. Each year I update the file and send a copy to our son to store on his computer. We store the crisis file on our computer too and also have a thumb drive with all this information that goes with us wherever we go. If you put the information on your smartphone, make certain it is password protected, and your family has the password.

The Crisis File

Recently, I wrote about the talk every family needs to have. This is the next step to that conversation. Each family is different, and for some their crisis file will be extensive, while for others it may be limited. At first blush, this may sound like the ramblings of an overly compulsive neurologist but trust me, if the time ever comes when you need it, you will think back and thank me.

Here is a list of what is in our “crisis file.” I put boxes to check in front of each category so you can print this list, check the boxes you need and start creating your file. We call ours “Senelick Important Info.” You pick a name that will make it easy to find amongst your documents. 

The Crisis Check List

  • Insurance cards: You can take a photo of the cards with your smartphone or record the information.
  • Lawyers: The names and address of any lawyers that would have your important information like wills, deeds, etc.
  • Power of Attorney and Medical Directives: Scan in actual copies of the documents and place them here.
  • Accountant: This person probably has a copy of your last tax return. If you do not use an accountant, then scan in your most recent tax return.
  • Bank accounts: Record the names and account numbers of all bank and checking accounts.
  • Credit Cards: The names and numbers of all your credit/debit cards.
  • Birth certificates: Scan copies or list where you keep them in your house or safety deposit box.
  • Safety deposit box or home safe: Where are the keys or what is the combination to your safe?
  • Passwords: Where do you keep your passwords?  Do you have a program like “mSecure” that stores all your passwords?
  • Physicians: The names, specialty and phone numbers of all your physicians.

You will undoubtedly think of other things that belong on this list, but it is a start. For a bit more information read the National Institute on Aging’s “Getting Your Affairs in Order.”

The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.