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Modern Technology Helps The
Tradition of "Snow Birds"
By Jude Roberts, Staff Writer
(Page 2 of 3)

It’s good to know that our government is doing something to improve the flow of healthcare information for so many people, especially “snow birds,” but what about medical dilemmas on a local level? What does happen if one becomes ill while so far away from home? Many “snow birds” do not have a physician in Florida, California, or Arizona, so when medical problems occur, the situation can quickly reach beyond just the need for a doctor. Aside from calling 911, how does a “snow bird” access immediate medical attention? How can a “snow bird” be sure that the physician that he or she is about to see is qualified, or even someone they would want to see under non-emergency circumstances? One solution is to contact a good home health agency in the area where a “snow bird” would be residing for the duration of the winter months. Some home health services can even come to the home, usually the same day they receive a call, to assess medical problems and needs. Many family members become long-distance caregivers when their loved ones leave for winter homes elsewhere, so working with a reliable home health agency can take some of the worry away from the caregivers. In fact, home health agencies can arrange for local caregivers to take care of the “snow birds” in their own home, helping to alleviate a long-distance caregiver’s concern over whether they need to travel to another state, leave other family members and their job behind, to check on their loved ones. Home health agencies can also help by making a list of medical supplies that may be needed for the home, and arrange for these items to be picked-up and delivered, as well as arrange for doctor appointments, transportation, and the contacting of family members that may live elsewhere, keeping them up-to-date on the condition of their loved one. This can offer everyone peace-of-mind, knowing that professionals are handling a medical crisis until the situation stabilizes.

But before leaving for their winter haven, “snow birds” should be absolutely aware of what type of medical coverage and health insurance plan they have; many plans will only pay for “emergency” care when away from home, and once the situation has subsided or stabilized, the plan can require the patient to travel back home in order to see their primary care physician for any further medical treatment for the condition, other wise, it may not be covered. Keep in mind that the insurance company decides the definition of what constitutes an “emergency”, and not the patient, so a risky chance is being taken if the patient isn’t absolutely sure about what the guidelines are of their insurance company and medical coverage. Also remember that the money spent on having to travel back home is the sole responsibility of the patient.

Many “snow birds” may develop early stages of different diseases and illnesses, and with time, it becomes much harder to predict what course the illness will take when the symptoms are beyond onset. The existence of illness and disease and changes in symptoms don’t detour the “snow birds” from returning to their winter homes, so it’s even more important for medical information to be maintained and accessible. But some of these folks may have huge medical charts, and they certainly don’t want to take the chance on losing vital information when traveling, so what can they do to ensure they have access to all their medical information at all times? The following is considered “vital information” by healthcare professionals, and is necessary to obtain before treatment can begin:

- primary care physician contact information

- drug and food allergies

- pre-existing medical conditions

- medical devices

- blood type

- medications

- past surgical procedures

- all information pertaining to insurance plan

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