Cancer Comfort Kits

Take steps to prepare for dealing with major illness

10 Practical Tips for Being Prepared When a Loved Gets Cancer (or Any Major Illness)


Based on my experience in dealing with the illness and death of loved one, these are some of the practical things I learned along the way. None of it is rocket science, but over the years I have encountered enough smart, competent friends who have been caught off guard by some of this. I will say, that I recognize that families are complicated and that not all of this will apply to everyone.

10 Practical Tips for Being Prepared When a Loved Gets Cancer (or Any Major Illness)

  • Make sure you have a copy of all wills and know where the originals are. (If your loved one does not have a will, encourage them to make one).
  • Make sure you have the following information– social security number, date of birth, name before marriage (if different), parents’ names of your loved one (including name before marriage of your loved one’s mother) - it is needed for all sorts of things
  • Get clarity on end-of-life wishes – not just funeral arrangements, but also – life support, etc.  Many states have a form called a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) that is worth considering.
  • Ensure that a health care proxy has been designated.  In most states this defaults to the spouse (if there is one) so if it should be someone else, that should be documented.  Make sure that all medical providers have a copy of this document and that the person who is ill has a copy with them at all times.
  • If possible, ask your loved one to grant power of attorney to someone they trust – it is critical if they need help managing their finances.
  • Try to consolidate the number of credit cards.  Tracking those all down later can be very time consuming.
  • If there is a life insurance policy, know where the policy documents are stored. (The same is true for titles for property, mortgage documents, etc)
  • If there is a safe or a safe deposit box, know where the keys/combinations are stored.
  • If there are personal items that should be given to specific people, ask your loved one to make a list.
  • Finances – this gets complicated depending on whether it’s your spouse or your parent, but as a broad suggestion – make sure someone is aware of all bank accounts, investments, etc. and if possible, have online access to all of them. 

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