Preparing for a Serious Health Event
A Helpful Handbook
by Denise Klein, Executive Director, and Denise Lisher, Wider Horizons Community Member
Wider Horizons started out as a community-building venture for older people wishing to remain in their own homes. Open since June of 2015, it is one of four area villages — Wider Horizons in Central Seattle; NEST in Northeast Seattle; PNA Village in Northwest Seattle; and Westside Neighbors Network in West Seattle — with a mission to help Seattle residents have a stimulating and supportive experience while aging in their own homes.
We do the things many close-knit families and friends do together: dinners, social events, rides to the doctor or the airport when needed, light home repairs, help with gardening and computer issues, and the like. We have fun together; we take care of each other; we learn new things; we have adventures; we feel engaged and worthy. We are especially grateful for our non-member volunteers, who help with everything from technology support to moving boxes to storage.
An array of social, creative and cultural activities evolved out of member interests, and this led to friendships and bonds. Some of us wanted to expand into a more health-oriented village where we would commit to helping out those who fell ill or required surgery or hospitalization, and in turn one would be encouraged to ask for help when needed.
Within a few months of each other, three members underwent difficult surgeries and recoveries, and we learned from these experiences how unprepared many of us are to prevent accidents, navigate the health care system, and help each other during the recuperation period. We formed a health advocacy group to identify proactive as well as immediate actions we could take to better prepare ourselves for these eventualities and care for each other during health crises.
The culmination of team meetings, research and brainstorming was a 28-page handbook covering the areas of getting one’s legal papers in order and available to a designated health care durable power of attorney, safety proofing one’s home, designating a health advocate, defining the role of a health advocate, understanding one’s health care benefits and insurance, preparing for surgery or hospitalization, accessing skilled nursing facilities and home health care, how to handle sudden health emergency events, and the range and limits of how members can help each other. Each section has clear and practical recommendations, with a corresponding checklist placed at the end of the handbook.
We are delighted to be able to share the fruits of our labors with you.