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Are You Prepared If Tragedy Strikes?

Photo of author, Teresa Shawver, FPQP™.
Teresa Shawver, FPQP™
Manager of Advisory Service Standards

At McKinley Carter, we advise clients around many domains of concern. Regularly, we have conversations with clients, all who are in various stages of their lives, about preparedness.

What do you care about most? What does a good life in retirement mean to you? Is your estate planning in order (powers of attorney, wills)? Who will take care of you, if you become incapacitated? Who will take care of your spouse, if something happens to you? Who do you trust to make decisions on your behalf? Is that person willing and able to play that role for you? Do you have sufficient health insurance? If not, should you consider a long-term care policy? The list goes on. For us, it’s not a questionnaire. It’s a conversation. Depending on one’s age, we find they may have no interest at all in these discussions, thinking, “I don’t need to worry about this yet.”

Recently, my 67-year-old father was diagnosed with two aortic aneurysms that required a stent placement. At the time, we were informed of potential risks and the very low percentage of patients who experience issues following. A week after surgery, Dad’s stent became fully blocked with a bloodclot and he lost all blood flow to both legs. In a matter of hours, he went from walking around in the yard and feeling like he was well on the road to recovery from the stent placement to a man whose legs and, for goodness sake, his life, were at risk. Hearing vascular surgeons say there were no guarantees of outcome – his life or his legs, even if they could save his life – was unexpected and devastating.

On his bed in the ER before all night emergency surgery, Dad shared passwords, bank account details, and other important information. The amazing news is that he went through the surgery amazingly well. The legs were ultimately saved. After 33 days in the hospital, he is now in a skilled nursing facility for transitional care that includes physical and occupational therapy. His long-term prognosis is good. He will walk again and doesn’t anticipate a long stay in the facility. The outcome could have been much different. We witnessed many families in that Surgical Intensive Care Unit who were not as fortunate.

This story is shared to be an eyeopener. Life happens. Tragedy strikes. Expect the unexpected. It is never too soon (or too late, unless well… it really is too late) to begin planning for a catastrophic event.

It doesn’t mean you have to obsess about it – what a downer that would be. However, it does mean that you and your family could have peace of mind in knowing that you’ve documented, and hopefully had a conversation about, your wishes and that you’ve developed what we will call your own personal disaster recovery plan.

It can be hard to imagine yourself there, but I speak to you from the rawness of my family having our world flipped upside down and recommend that you not hesitate. If your advisor has been broaching planning topics of estate/legacy, long-term care, insurance, business succession, but it really doesn’t interest you right now, I encourage you to at least explore the options. You and your family will rest well in knowing that you are as prepared as you can be if/when tragedy strikes.

Until then, keep living your good life…

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