Being organized can make life easier


By Marianne Delorey

Because life is short, even a task like organization should have priorities, and this is the time to take simple steps that have a big impact.

M.Delorey_headshotFocus first on your most important documents — your will, power of attorney, health care proxy, list of assets, list of medications and health care providers. In a crisis, these are the documents that will make life simpler for those you love and can change the outcome for you for the better.

Consider Frank, a case study of all that can go wrong and his neighbor, Tina, who took the time to prepare.

One day, both Frank and Tina started feeling poorly. By lunch, they both needed to see the doctor. Frank had to go looking for the number, wasting time. Tina had all of her doctor’s numbers and her medications handy. Both went to the emergency room. When the ambulance arrived, Tina handed the EMTs a copy of her medication and provider lists. Frank had to fumble around in the bathroom collecting prescription bottles. He forgot to tell the paramedics about the over the counter drugs, including aspirin that could affect his health and the outcome of the treatment he received.

Both Tina and Frank took a turn for the worse. Tina’s son, who was also her health care proxy, was able to effectively advocate for what she would want, since they had already discussed her preferences in advance. Frank’s daughter did not have a health care proxy. In the absence of other information, the doctors were required to use all means necessary to keep Frank alive, which included some painful procedures that were ultimately not needed.

Luckily, both survived but needed a long stay in the hospital, and then rehab. During that time, both had to have help paying their bills.

Tina had not had time to put her son on her checking account, but he did have power of attorney, so he brought that document to the bank and had himself added. Then, he was able to write checks on her account for the rest of the time she was out of her home.

Frank had not added his daughter to his accounts either, but he did not have a power of attorney. He had to have his daughter go to the bank, bring forms to him, and go back to the bank two more times because they needed additional paperwork. She also had to go to and from his home searching for the right checking account since he had multiple accounts and didn’t always remember which one had how much in it.

Soon after this brush with death, both Tina and Frank updated their wills. Unfortunately, Frank forgot to give a copy to his daughter or a trusted family member. Tina, however, made sure a copy was with her son and a copy was kept at her house. She also made sure her trusted neighbor had an updated list of medications and doctors in case her neighbor was home the next time there was a medical crisis.

Frank’s lack of organization proved to be problematic for him and his family. While there are situations in which there are difficult decisions to make (who to make executor, how to deal with a child that may not be responsible, etc), leaving these decisions to chance seldom makes the outcome better.

Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or and Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at