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Your Health

Preparing for the Midlife Health Crisis


Last updated 8/20/2019 at 4:17pm

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"The last thing I expected was for my 55-year-old husband to have a heart-attack," Cherolyn Conway says. "We didn't realize he had any heart issues. But we learned he had 75% and 95% blockages."

As Jack Conway was checked into the emergency room, Cherolyn had to run back home to get medication information the doctors needed. Finally, with Jack admitted, Cherolyn realized she'd forgotten her own medications and personal effects. But she wasn't about to leave Jack's side to get them until the tests were over and results received.

"You're trying to think of everything you'll need and gather it while the 911 guys are there. And you're panicking," she says. "I wish I would have had a list I could just check off to make sure I had everything in those moments when I couldn't think. I'm working on one now for each member of our family."

Health crises will happen. How, besides making a list, can we be prepared so they don't overwhelm us quite as much?

Know The Symptoms

As we hit 40, our bodies start to change. As part of that, we begin to feel twinges of pain in body parts we didn't even realize we had. While some new aches are normal, others can be warning signs for serious problems.

In most medical emergencies, response time is vital to minimize damage. Before a crises hits we can prepare for speedy response by learning the symptoms of the more common diseases we might face-such as stroke, heart attacks and cancer.

Also, know your family history. Learn about ailments your parents had and keep an eye on symptoms of those diseases in your own life.

We can find this information on the Internet and in pamphlets from doctors' offices. Also, if your body starts to feel abnormal, keep a health journal of symptoms that might help your doctor diagnose a problem.

Know Your Insurance

"Jack had three ER trips in less than two weeks," Cherolyn says. "I can't even imagine what this will cost us. Between the heart cath and two stents, even at 10 or 20 percent of total, we're looking at the equivalent of another car payment per month!"

In any hospital situation, costs multiply quickly. When choosing insurance in the United States consider all the expenses in a heart attack or major illness-and recovery-and learn how much the insurance will cover.

You may find you need a better health care plan. But before switching to another company, learn how much premiums are raised annually, after the first year, or after the first claim.

Besides health insurance, consider other insurances. Do you need a plan to help you pay the bills while you're off work? How about life insurance? When we're healthy, it seems like a needless expense on a tight budget. But the time to get life insurance is before illness strikes.

Another consideration as we age is long-term care or nursing home insurance. Nursing homes average $3000 per month, and Medicaid doesn't help until other options are depleted.

Also consider supplemental insurance. When Thurman Gardner retired and went on Medicare, he joined a supplemental insurance plan. When he eventually faced severe medical problems, the supplemental insurance paid everything Medicare didn't cover.

When insurance shopping, get plenty of quotes, and check the insurance company's record through resources such as your state's insurance complaint index.

Have a Medical Emergency Fund

Most boomers have set up retirement funds by the time they hit middle age. But have you also thought about a medical emergency fund? Consider creating an account for this, or earmarking certain stocks to help pay for medical crises.

If your family may require repeated ER trips, check with your local ambulance company-some have a flat rate for unlimited yearly services.

Get Familiar with Resources

Julia Rogers was just entering midlife when her father became ill. Julia was panicking over the expenses of equipment her father, a veteran, would need when a friend suggested she contact the local veteran's organization. They promptly sent caseworkers to evaluate her dad's health.

"Next thing I knew, his house was filled with therapists who helped him regain some mobility," she said. "And they ordered equipment that I had no idea Medicare would provide."

No matter what your crises, church, government and other organizations are created to help. To find them, talk to your doctor's office, a caseworker, health supply organizations, government or other websites, your church (especially seniors' ministries) and friends. So if you face any difficulties-from needing help with an ill spouse to getting a wheelchair-bound individual to a doctor's appointment-chances are someone is out there to help.

Build a Networking List

When you're going through crisis, don't go it alone. Let friends help you take care of the logistics, like picking up the kids from school, or feeding your family. Let them give you emotional support by sitting with you during a surgery. They will want to help, so keep their phone numbers handy and be ready to tell them what they can do.

Get Your Home in Order

What would happen in your family if the one who pays the bills, and handles other financial matters and investments suddenly couldn't do the job anymore?

You can prepare for this by putting together a manual or computer file that tells the financial overview, details, and instructions.

Also, by middle age, we need to prepare for end-of-life issues, such as wills, a power of attorney in case we can't function temporarily, guardianship, estate planning, and living wills.

Some companies and churches have staff members who can help you make these decisions. Caseworkers in medical care facilities can also help. The Internet and computer programs can also give you basic information.

Be Prepared Spiritually

"When a life is on the line, all of a sudden everything else seems unimportant," Cherolyn Conway reflects. "You basically go through a checklist of the soul to see if God wants to teach you something through this experience, or to evaluate if He's pleased with where you are in relationship to Him."

Just as we can prepare the other areas of our lives for an emergency, we can also prepare on a spiritual level.

For one thing, we can take James 1:5 to heart by asking for wisdom and guidance as we seek insurance and prepare these other logistics. We can also ask God to help us understand that life is fleeting (Ps. 39:4), and to live accordingly.

And we can prepare our hearts for those medical emergencies by memorizing scriptures on topics such as God's faithfulness, and trusting Him through pain and hardships.

We can also prepare a list of spiritual resources, such as our church office, any visitation ministers, people in any church activities we're involved in.

As boomers hit midlife, health crises are more likely to occur. But as we prepare, we can lessen their severity and recover a little easier.


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