Lori Cerato, Elder Law
This month’s article was prompted by a story told to me about a man who was found dead on his toilet by police who had to break into his home in central Pennsylvania. His mail delivery person noticed an overflow of mail in the box and called police for a welfare check. The man was dead for at least five days. His dehydrated unconscious wife was found on the living room floor.
Given my area of practice, I hear very sad stories about people on a regular basis. Some situations come about due to mental illness, self-imposed isolation, addiction, loneliness or because the person is too stubborn or embarrassed to ask for help. Everyone needs an ICE, or In Case of Emergency person.
If you suspect someone is struggling or lives an isolated existence, keep an eye out, offer to help even if it’s to suggest installation of a lifeline monitor or to place your phone number on their refrigerator in care of an emergency. You don’t have to become the ICE person, but you can know who the ICE person is and how to get in touch with that ICE person should the need arise.
When you are admitted to the hospital, always provide an emergency contact name and phone number. This information remains part of your medical record for subsequent hospitalizations. Carry a card in your wallet with the name and number for your ICE person. If you have pets, note on the card who should be contacted to care for your pets.
If you are living alone with health issues, make sure you identify an ICE person.
Pick a neighbor, someone from church, a former co-worker, a relative or friend. Ask if you can check in with them by a quick phone call, text or email once a week on an agreed upon day. If your ICE doesn’t hear from you, he or she can reach out to you to make sure you are okay. It’s good common sense. Seventeenth century author John Donne said it best: “No man is an island.”
Lori Cerato is a Stroudsburg attorney concentrating her practice in the area of elder law. If you would like to see a particular question covered in this column, email email@example.com.