Dear Heloise: Three hours from home, my 64-year-old husband ended up in an emergency room with horrible pains, cold chills and nausea. He called me on his cell phone and told me the name of the town, but was too ill to even go to the desk and find out the name of the hospital. Getting phone numbers from information, I finally found out where he was, only to be shut out of getting any information because of the patient-privacy law — HIPAA. Was he having a heart attack? Was he dying? They would not tell me. Fortunately, it turned out to be only a violent stomach virus.

As a result of this frightening episode, we now have copies of our health directives, HIPAA access forms and medical information in clearly marked envelopes. Every person, including teens, should have a written, signed, witnessed directive as to what he or she wants done in case of emergencies, including who can be informed. No next of kin should be denied access to a loved one's health status because of paperwork! A copy should also be in your files at your primary-care doctor's office. —Jan L., Bella Vista, Ark.

Jan, thank you for sharing your scary experience so others don't have to go through this. —Heloise

Dear Heloise: I find it difficult to hold on to the large-size bottles of hair spray while applying it to my hairdo because they are so heavy. I don't even have arthritis. But I found out that using a travel-size hair-spray bottle works best for everyday use. When empty, just refill it from the large bottle. Hope this helps others like it has helped me. —Sharon McMillan, Danville, Ky.

Dear Heloise: The lint removers with tear-off sticky rollers are perfect for cleaning the cloth speaker covers that gather dust so badly. —Pam Holt, Newton, N.C.

Dear Heloise: At my mother's funeral, I took two pictures of each arrangement received — (1) the whole arrangement and (2) a close-up of the card. Not only did this help identify each for me when it came time to send thank-you notes, but for those who were unable to visit in person, I enclosed a copy of the picture for the sender. Bonus for me — pictures to have and hold always.—Kathy W., via e-mail

Kathy, this hint will be very helpful and could also be carried over to a shower — instead of finding someone to write a gift list as gifts are opened, take pictures with a digital camera and erase when done or keep for insurance purposes!—Heloise

Dear Heloise: After using a gift card, write the balance with a permanent marker on the card. You will always know how much is left without carrying around receipts. —Donna, via e-mail

Dear Heloise: My wife reads your column in the Houston Chronicle every time it appears, and I consider the hints wonderful.

She did something for me today that was out of her own sweetness and for my comfort. I have a home-based office with a comfortable chair, except when I take off my shirt and tie (I am a country boy and do that to relax at home). The chair is inexpensive plastic, so I stick to it. I put a towel on the back, but my wife found one of my T-shirts that I rarely wear, turned the sleeves inside out and slipped it over the back of the chair. It is perfect, and if I decided to wear it, it could be washed. After almost 41 years, she is a keeper. —Henry A. Stanaland, Houston

Dear Heloise: For an impromptu bottle/anything cleaner, grab your kitchen whisk, enrobe it with a dishcloth and put a rubber band around the base to hold the cloth in place. Voila!—Dennis T., San Diego


Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to 210-435-6473 or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

© King Features Syndicate Inc.