Now is time to prepare readiness health plan

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Readiness applies to every aspect of your life! As Air Force members we are part of a fitness focused and, generally, very healthy active population. However, our population is largely made up of young adults who may not think about or plan for the what ifs and curves of life.

What if an accident occurs or a significant health event that leaves you, the active duty member, in a coma or a physical state that requires a chemically altered level of consciousness? What happens when signatures are required for your care or decisions on your finances and obligations and you are physically or mentally unable to take care of those requirements? Young adults must be prepared in case life throws those curves that affect health or the ability to perform day to day physical and mental functions. Don't wait, prepare now because, unfortunately, no one lives forever and we never know the direction our life and health may take.

Each of us has a responsibility to our families and loved ones and our fellow Air Force members to have many of these potential issues already resolved. A time of health crises is not the time for families to have to scramble for information or struggle to make decisions quickly when emotions are so fragile. We have the opportunity and resources in our Air Force to make sure our wishes are well known and many of the decisions required of our loved ones are taken care of.

One simple tool we have available is the emergency data card we should strive to keep current to ensure the right people are contacted if we are injured. Taking the necessary steps to make sure legal documents are prepared and current and your plans are discussed with your family will help to limit the pain and confusion they will face regarding health care decisions.

A living will is important to define your health care decisions and who can carry out those decisions for you. In addition, a power of attorney delegates decision making power to a person of your choice to manage your affairs in the event you are incapacitated. Another important document is a will that defines how you want your personal assets distributed and assigns an individual to take care of those activities. Other considerations include your Servicemen's Group Life Insurance beneficiaries and amount, survivor's benefits, medical coverage as well as other military member benefits that should be well defined.

An important conversation to have with your spouse or family members is about financial status, debts, assets, investments and accounts. If you own a home, the location of important documents such as mortgage, insurance, maintenance lists, warranties and other significant items should be known to your spouse or family member. Should the worst outcome occur, the chaplain, medical team and other helping agencies are quickly made available to your family.

Many people will think, oh that is really morbid or I'm young and healthy and it won't happen to me. The sad fact is that it happens to one of our Air Force family members all too frequently. It isn't morbid; it's about being prepared and taking care of your family because these actions save anguish and many difficult decisions for loved ones. There will still be many decisions they will have to make, but you will have taken the heaviest burden away and relieved them of some stressors and prepared for their future. It is the best thing you can do for those you love and who love you. Take the time and prepare your readiness plan for your health now.