Get a Go-Bag: Lesson from the Hospital

Get a go-bag: lesson from the hospital. A 73-year-old client recently had an unplanned hospital stay and gave permission to share her story.

She originally had an outpatient foot surgery. Subsequently it developed an infection missed by her physicians. Once her foot swelled up and was bursting with pain, only then did they send her immediately to the ER.

As you might expect, it was an ordeal of mixed experiences. Once she got a (semi-private) room, the nursing staff was wonderful. The cleaning staff – not so much. Evidently they had missed cleaning her room’s bathroom after the last patients left. Before getting a room, she spent 15 hours parked on a gurney in the ER hallway. Doctors would walk by, see her foot, stop and simply say, “Wow, that looks painful.” Then keep going.

In case you’re wondering, she has a the “Cadillac” Medicare Plan F (no longer available to new enrollees) with supplemental coverage.

She spent three days there, which was long enough for this astute patient to think of all the things she would do differently next time before coming. She had her toothbrush, but not her eye mask for sleeping. She had socks, but shower shoes would have been nice. She didn’t have her face soap, so for three days she used the “industrial” hospital hand soap.

Minimalists might think this is minor stuff. But when you are in a most uncomfortable situation and place, isn’t that when comforts are needed the most?

Lesson Learned

She wanted to ask her partner to bring some of these things, but she realized he really wouldn’t know what all the stuff in her medicine cabinet was. It seemed like a big ask. He had already held ice packs on her feet for 4 hours straight. How could she describe which of her many bottles to bring?

If it had been me, once I got home, I would have been relieved to be out of the hospital, get on with my life and try to forget it ever happened. Not this lady. She immediately shopped for everything she wanted to have but missed. Then she assembled everything in two go-bags. Now, if she is unable to grab them herself, she has told her partner about them, written down on the medicine cabinet where to find them, and what needs to be added at the last minute. All he has to do is bring them along.

Comfort and Dignity

When my grandmother, a tall, beautiful, always put-together woman, was in the hospital, dying, she asked for someone to make up her face every morning. At that time I was a teenager. I didn’t understand this request. It seemed so unimportant in the scheme of things. Several decades later, when my mother-in-law was in a similar state, I read on a Hospice brochure how rubbing the feet is one of the best things you can do. Hospice is the authority on being comfortable and retaining dignity at a time of greatest discomfort and indignity. The founder, Dame Cicely Saunders, said, “People matter, even when they are dying. We all need to care for the dying and not let them become reduced to just a set of physical problems or a list of needs.”

Even if you are not dying, for your comfort and dignity, if you need your Lancome set, you need your Lancome set. If you want your hair rollers, you should have your hair rollers. Hospital stays are not the time for even more comfort sacrifices. You are already being subjected to enough.

This client, like my grandmother was at that age, is always beautiful and put together. So when she shared that she had put a go-bag together, I knew it would be the nicest best stuff. She is also frugal, so it’s not the most expensive, either. Here is her list, and a photo of the beautiful bags they are in.

The Go-Bags and List

Get a go-bag
  • Small net bath puff
  • body wash
  • razor
  • Bath wipes
  • Body lotion
  • Aquaphor
  • deodorant
  • Shower shoes 
  • Kleenex
  • Poo-Pourri (sharing a bathroom!!)
  • Mini Brush/Comb
  • hair ties & clips
  • lip balm
  • tweezer
  • Small Mirror
  • Toothpaste
  • Listerine
  • Floss
  • Sleep mask
  • Face cloth
  • Face sponges
  • Cerave Cleanser & Moisturizer
  • Various sample serums
  • Extra copies of medical insurance cards
  • Underwear!

She says, “The Coach small tote is nice & roomy but nondescript. The black bag is made by Travelon, which I purchased on Amazon. It’s a REALLY nice bag! [My partner] will add cell phone/charger, electric toothbrush & contents of whatever bag I’m using at the time. Obviously, if it’s a trauma situation, this stuff would not be necessary, but it could always be brought later if needed.”

A Few Add-Ons

I advised to add extra copies of her living will and medical directives (HIPAA designation and health care power of attorney documents). Additionally, to reduce having to remember the cell phone charger and electric toothbrush, you could buy an extra of each. For example, I have a cheap travel electric toothbrush which uses AA batteries that could have a permanent home in the go-bag.

What would you add to your hospital go-bag? How would you make it your own? Do you have a parent or family member who could use their own go-bag? It might make a fun shopping trip to put together nice things that they like in a nice bag for them.

Hospital stays aren’t fun to think about. Being prepared with little comforts and reminders of home might help make a rotten situation a little less so.

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What’s that IRS Form 5498 arriving in May?

Tax calendar

What’s that IRS Form 5498 arriving in May? You might receive a Form 5498 if you have a Health Savings Account, a Roth IRA, or other IRA. 

Now, you might have just filed after compiling all your forms and statements, but now your financial institution sends another form? Hello, isn’t that a little late? Do you have to call your accountant or financial planner, again?

Hold the calls. You may remember reporting to your accountant (or TurboTax) that you made some contributions to an HSA or IRA. Perhaps you made them last year, or perhaps you made them before the April 18 deadline and had them count for 2022. Or, you took money out of these accounts or are getting ready to start your required minimum distributions (RMDs). These are reasons why you are receiving the form.

What’s Form 5498 for?

One purpose of the Form 5498 is for the financial institution that holds your account (called a “custodian”) to verify to the IRS that you did indeed make the contribution that you claim you did on your tax return.

Since everyone usually has until the tax filing deadline to make contributions, the IRS gives custodians until May 31 to send Form 5498 to account holders.

Another is to verify distributions. If you are over the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs), Form 5498 also tells the IRS what your RMD will be for the current year. The RMD is determined by the account balance on the final day of the previous year (December 31, 2022 for 2023).

So all you need to do with it is check that it matches up with what actually happened and what you actually reported on your return.

Check Form 5498 For Errors

Before you file the 5498 away, make sure it’s correct. Mistakes are common.

In 2018, my husband and I both received erroneous 5498’s for our Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Mine showed $0 contributions for 2017 and his showed 2 years’ worth. What the….? So we called the bank, got the records straight, and had them send corrected 5498s to the IRS.

Why go to the trouble? If your 5498 contribution or distribution differs from what you reported on your 1040, at some point it could get noticed. One fantastic sunny day in the future as you skip to your mailbox, you may find inside a skinny white envelope with “Internal Revenue Service” in the return address. Fantastic day ruined.

More than likely, all the letter will say, essentially, is, “Hey, we noticed your 5498 doesn’t match your 1040. What gives?” But still. It will be in IRS-Speak and look and sound and feel serious, with a deadline for giving them an answer. Save yourself the trouble of having to answer (or pay your accountant to answer for you) and do a quick check now.

It only takes a few minutes.

  • Does your contribution amount for 2022 look correct?
  • Did you take any 2022 HSA or IRA distributions, and if so, do those look correct?
  • (If not, make sure the distributions say $0.)
  • Does the reported year-end account balance look accurate?
  • Is your SSN correct?
  • How about your name, including your middle initial?

If anything looks amiss, contact your custodian to get a corrected 5498 issued ASAP.

One More Tax Task

By this time of year, it’s normal to feel sick of tax stuff. The last thing you may want to do is deal with another form, especially an erroneous one. If you don’t want the bother, at least forward it to your financial or tax professional to check it out and help. We deal with tax stuff all year long. Even in May.

If it feels like you could be paying less in taxes, start by subscribing to our award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From the Porch” for monthly tax tips sprinkled with fun and reader-only event offerings.

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