Thursday, September 8, 2011

The ABCS's Of Preparing For Hurricane RA...

                                                                           (photo credit: NASA/Ron Garan)

As I watched with fascination and major concern over the most recent hurricane barreling up the east coast towards us, it occurred to me just how much ra is like a hurricane. 

There are tons of websites out there that one can google to come up with on how to prepare for a hurricane but none that I could find on how to prepare for ra.  And why not I want to know?  Ra is a disease that will majorly impact your life if you get it.  We are told to prepare for hurricanes days, weeks, even months in advance. We are told to heed the warning signs, take refuge in a safe place, collect up all your important papers, have cash on hand, prepare with 3-5 days of supplies…the list goes on and on.

And to me (I personally went through hurricane Hugo in Charleston, SC and recently Irene) ra can be worst then a hurricane. A hurricane is most definitely frightening but it does pass after a period of time, unlike ra.  If one has been diagnosed with ra or even if you have it in your family's history…ra could possible be with you for the rest of your life. And to me if there is even a 1% chance that you can get ra, please GET PREPARED!

How does one prepare for ra?  

1. Get disability insurance and get it now if your can! If you are currently working, know if you have short and long term disability insurance available. But do keep in mind that just because you may or are diagnosed with ra doesn't mean you will become disabled. But the statistics are there. And I recommend this for everyone. I know that none of us plan on becoming disabled but it can happen. And not just from ra. Things happen and you want to protect yourself for the short and long term.  And if you are a Mom, don't think that having your husband's income is enough in this day and age. If you are working, you income is important and you need to protect yourself and your family.  

2. Get and keep health insurance on yourself if at all possible. Currently as of 2011 if you don't have health insurance for one day, you will be hit with pre-existing conditions. This means that you will not be able to use your insurance for your ra if you got your new insurance after your ra diagnoses. The point here is, please get and keep health insurance if financially feasible at all.

3. Get life insurance on yourself early on. If you have ra or any autoimmune or really any illness history in your family, you would be smart to take out life insurance on yourself while you are young and still healthy.  The earlier the better and hopefully before you are diagnosed. If you work, your job may carry life insurance for you BUT as we all know jobs come and go in this turbulent economy. If you can swing taking out a life insurance plan outside of work, do it. Often the rates are reasonable and often if you have a pre-existing condition like ra, heart condition, etc. you won't get life insurance approved or you will have to wait for two years for the policy to cover that particular health issue for payout. And these policies from a job ARE NOT transportable….meaning you often can not take them with you once you no longer work for a particular company.

4. Plan, plan, plan. As with a hurricane, planning is the key. I know how hard it is to even think about this stuff but planning is the KEY here. Build up a savings account that will cover your family from 9-12 months if you can.  I would prefer you have a couple of years worth of expenses put away. And remember, you can always borrow for your child's education but you can't borrow in an emergency. In the event you have to apply for disability, it can take years to get approved. It is a lot easier to brown bag it now and put that money in a savings account rather then not have the money to keep your needed medications available should you become sick and without insurance. Save, save, save if you can.

5. If you have children over the age of 18, talk to them about preparing while they are young. I have already done this with all of my children. Now, I can't guarantee that they will listen but I can hope that they will be much better prepared should something happen then I was for this type of hurricane. And yes, the ra hurricane can bring a lot of destruction to one's life if you are not prepared.

6. Know your medical history and write it down for yourself. Find out what illnesses your Mom and Dad, grandparents, aunt and uncles, have or had. Information is the key. I look at this knowledge as being able to plot the possible course of your hurricane. Keeping in mind that hurricanes can shift and change, influenced by water temperatures, wind shifts, land structures etc. This type of information, in my scenario here is the information you will need to track your prospective hurricanes. Now, do keep in mind that you may never have a medical hurricane come into your life (I pray you never do!) but again, hindsight is key here. Envisioning the what ifs will put you financially and emotionally on course. And just like a real hurricane, if you have the time to shore up your home with reinforcements, you can survive the storm and enjoy the sunshine once again.

7. Financial preparation is not the only key here. Prepare yourself physically as well to ward off possible health hurricanes. Try to eat healthy, exercise and keep stress at bay as much as possible. And this goes for all family members with any history of illnesses. By doing these steps you are helping your body, mind and spirit strengthen in case it needs to battle a hurricane in the future. And you can eat healthy without breaking the bank, you can exercise without joining a gym and you can learn to relax without breaking the bank. My point here is…just do it. Find support groups online for eating healthy, exercising, reducing stress and begin the journey. And while you are at it, take all your immediate family members along for this ride if you can. I have learned over the past 13 years that all three of these areas are truly just a mind set. Begin slowly if you must but do begin. Small steps forward are much better then the opposite: stop or reverse. 

8. Find the joys in your life. Even if you are currently at the top of the world right now, find the joy in whatever you do. It is true, when eminent warnings are all over the tv about a hurricane, I have two choices in how I react. I can panic and take on fear, dread and the like or I can take these warnings to heed and begin to prepare and place my trust in myself and the knowledge I have about hurricanes (whatever types they may be). 

9.  Become an empowered patient now.  Learning to manage the health care system is not something you want to learn to do once you are sick. Knowing all the ins and outs ahead of time will make surviving a medical hurricane all that much easier. Start reading up on how to become an empowered patient and start practicing your newly acquired skills now. 

10. And last, be sure your partner has the same planning strategies put in place that you do.  Just because you may have more DNA links to certain illnesses doesn't necessarily mean you will be the one needing the disability insurance, etc. Accidents can happen to anyone. Prepare your entire family if you can.

The sun did come out after hurricane Irene. She has ended, she has moved on. But with chronic illness….she never moves on. She comes into your life and stays for good. So, please, please prepare.

Some of my other favorite websites that my help you in this process:
Suze Orman's Resource Library
The Wise Patient's Guide to Becoming An Empowered Patient