“Be prepared” is more than a Scout motto — for Associate Professor John de Campo, it was essential when he was diagnosed with cancer. He has written this article to help medical colleagues be ready in case of acute or chronic illness or an accident.
Acute or chronic illness, like death and taxes, will come to us all. Many assume it is some way off, or that our illness will have a slow onset so that we and our families can prepare for a change in circumstances.
Some illnesses, such as stroke, afford no time to talk with your family and loved ones and no opportunity to check that prior arrangements for your family are adequate.
Fortunately, when diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year, I had some weeks between diagnostic surgery and the start of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to discuss the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment with my family and employer, and to plan my domestic and work arrangements.
Having time to consult with your accountant and lawyer, as well as your treating medical specialists, means that you and your family are able to face and prepare for prolonged illness with confidence.
Of course, there is no reason to wait until you have a sudden illness to ensure those you care for, and those who care for you, have everything at hand to manage with as little difficulty as possible. This is the practical side to acute illness which our patients and their families deal with all the time.
I have put together this list of practical issues that arose during my acute illness. It might be useful to your family or your patients as an aide-mémoire.
- Is your will up to date and accessible (the original of mine had been lost by lawyers)?
- Is your financial power of attorney current and accessible?
- Is your medical power of attorney current and accessible (I didn’t have one)?
- Are your life, trauma and disability insurance policies safe and accessible?
- Are all your insurance policies paid by direct debit, and not dependent on your involvement?
- Is your bank ready to support your pending sickness payments and insurance payout?
- Is your superannuation fund beneficiary nomination current?
- Does your family company have a convenient number of directors?
- Is there a clear succession of appointers to any family trust?
- Does your family have the contact details of your accountant, broker, banker, superannuation fund, employer and lawyer immediately available?
- Are your health insurance policy and fund details available to your family?
- Are your medical defence policy and medical board registration current?
- Are you able to recast your medical defence premium if earnings fall temporarily?
- Are safe-deposit details and access available to your family?
- Are key passwords available to your family?
- Does your family have credit cards independent of your card?
- Tasks your accountant should be ready to handle include:
- Last year’s tax returns.
- Arranging income support from your superannuation fund.
- Documentation for any insurance claims.
- Quarterly business activity statements and refunds.
- Partnership and trust issues.
- Workers compensation claims.
- Investment and superannuation administration.
We live in a bushfire-prone region and have moved home regularly, so all our core documents have been in a “box to go” for some years. For us, checking documents was a relatively easy task.
You might consider spending a couple of hours preparing for your inevitable acute illness.
Are you ready?
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.