Emergency Planning

Daniel Pendick

Straight talk needed to choose health care at the end of life

Birth, childhood, adulthood, and death span the book of life. Unfortunately, many people tend to avoid thinking or talking about how they want the final chapter to read. For the seriously ill or elderly—and even those who aren’t—not expressing wishes and desires about health care at the end of life can lead to getting care you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. Families often bear the brunt of delaying or avoiding a discussion about a loved one’s end-of-life preferences. That often leaves family members making decisions without knowing what their loved one would have wanted. Doctors in Canada just published recommendations for starting the end-of-life conversation. The Conversation Project offers a “starter kit” to help people prepare to discuss their end-of-life wishes. Another resource is Five Wishes, a planning document distributed by the Aging with Dignity Foundation.

Mary Pickett, M.D.

Few plan for long-term care though most will need it

Two of every three Americans who reach age 65 will at some point need long-term care for up to three years. Yet the majority of those age 40 and older have done “little or no planning” for how they might pay for long-term care when they get older. That’s a key finding from a new survey of 1,019 Americans over age 40 on the topic of long-term care. The survey was done by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago. Most people underestimate the cost of nursing home care (it averages $6,700 a month) and overestimate what Medicare will cover. And few people are setting aside money for long-term care even as most worry about key issues of aging such as memory loss or being a burden to family members. Without a crystal ball, it’s tricky to plan for the future. It’s easy to convince yourself that you or a partner won’t need long-term care. But the statistics suggest you should start planning now, even if your plan isn’t perfect.

Stephanie Watson

Zombie apocalypse? Only in your dreams

It’s Halloween—a time when we’re preoccupied with witches, ghouls, and other frightful creatures. But this year, no creature is generating as much buzz as the zombie. Zombies have inspired movies and TV shows, video games—even a bloody Pride and Prejudice takeoff. Could all this talk of the undead be foreshadowing a real-life zombie apocalypse? In fiction, yes. But not in real life. A Harvard ethnobotanist once found that a neurotoxin was the cause of several cases of zombie-like living deaths in Haiti. Oddly shaped proteins called prions have also been linked to brain diseases that vaguely resemble zombieism. In his novel The Zombie Autopsies, Dr. Steven Schlozman, a zombie enthusiast and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, imagined an infection scenario that turns normal human beings into flesh-craving monsters. Although a pandemic that creates zombie-like symptoms is theoretically possible, a real-life zombie apocalypse shouldn’t be high up on our list of worries.

Christine Junge

In case of zombie apocalypse, check with the CDC

Do you know how to protect yourself and your family during a zombie attack? If not, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help. In addition to information on how to prepare for emergencies from anthrax to wildfires, the CDC Web site has added a page on dealing with a zombie apocalypse. […]

Peter Wehrwein

How to survive a tornado

The storms that have recently ripped through the South included dozens of tornadoes. And as the bad weather barreled north today, the National Weather Service declared a tornado watch for eastern parts South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, and warned of severe weather as far north as Boston. Strong wind from any sort of severe weather can wreak havoc, but the speed and spinning winds of a tornado are especially destructive. In most years, tornadoes kill about 60 Americans, about the same number killed by lightning strikes. But this is not going to be an average year. The death toll from the terrible storms in the South is approaching 300 and the number is climbing. Advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center can help you survive a tornado if one is headed your way.