Aug. 7, 2019
When Karen Williams was preparing to drop her son off at the University of Maryland, she carefully followed the dorm checklist while shopping. Twin-sized sheets, a shower caddy and a desk lamp all made it into the shopping cart, and later, into her minivan. But one essential item that she didn't remember to pack was her son's Epi-Pen.
“I was so focused on the list that I lost sight of the items I should have inherently known were necessary, but packing for college is overwhelming," she said. Most parents would agree that the college sendoff can create a brain fog like no other. Having a dorm checklist can help immeasurably, but there are some items that will inevitably be required even though they aren't included on the list.
Consider these often-forgotten items and ensure that you've got them packed and ready when you head to college for move-in day.
As noted in Williams' experience above, your students' medications will be very important during the college living period. Not only should you remember to bring prescription medications, but also any over-the-counter meds that are important for them to have. Allergy medicine, cough and cold treatments, and any other commonly-used items are important. Many of these can be purchased on campus, but some parents find that their students are overwhelmed with options and aren't sure which ones worked best at home.
In addition, it's important to find out the rules about having prescription medications in your child's dorm room. Some universities prefer to dispense the medications for the students, although this may apply only to certain medicines or to students who are under the age of 18. It's a good idea to phone your university's health center before arriving to get the lowdown.
Although no one wants their children to get sick or injured while they're away, we know there's always that possibility, and planning for it is essential. Therefore, it's a good idea to have your child complete a healthcare power of attorney before heading to college, advises Bruce Talen, JD, CFA, senior vice president and director of risk management with Commerce Trust Company. Consider this example that he offers:
Your 18-year-old daughter is knocked unconscious at an intramural soccer game at State U. She is rushed to the nearest Emergency Room. You get a text from her friends that your daughter is “hurt," so you call the hospital to see what's going on. The switchboard operator transfers you to someone in the ER. That person promptly tells you they can't acknowledge anyone's admittance much less disclose their condition due to privacy laws. Decisions about your daughter's immediate care are now going to be made without you, possibly in a room hundreds of miles away.
Situations like this show why it's important for students to complete a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive, Talen advises. “Most people don't automatically think of the concept as one that applies to younger people as they might for themselves or for an older adult," he notes. “People tend to overlook its benefits for a college student, even though the student has turned 18 and is now an adult."
You can typically download the basic form from your state bar association's website. “Your child will likely want to specify that you and your spouse are named 'agent' so you can make decisions for your child if he or she lacks the 'capacity' (competence to reason and deliberate) to make or communicate them in the future," Talen advises. “If you have family members closer to campus, you may want to also add them as alternates. Put signed copies on file with your primary health care provider, one in a safety deposit box and one in the glove compartment of your child's car if your child has one on campus," he adds.
If your child is accustomed to sleeping in a quiet house, there might be an adjustment period when living with roommates, or even within a loud dorm where students are always active. In addition to your child's normal sleep aids – such as a retainer or mouth guard – you might also consider ear plugs, a sleep mask, a noise canceling machine or other items that might help your child get some shuteye.
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