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We never want our elderly parents to experience a lapse in their care and well-being. Staying prepared for a medical emergency will give you peace of mind and ensure your parent receives optimal care at all times.
It started out fairly simply. I needed to take my youngest son to the ER. It wasn’t an “emergency” but it was the only way we could get an MRI to check his hydrocephalus without waiting for their next available appointment in three months.
Five hours after we arrived, a doctor came in. He discussed my son’s test results with the Neurosurgeon and they are ready to admit him. Seven days, multiple tests, and two surgeries later, we were finally released to go home.
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Always Be Prepared
One of the first things I did when I became a caregiver was prepare for emergencies such as this. My MIL’s care passed to me after the very unexpected death of my FIL.
He did not expect to be in the hospital more than a day or two. All I had after his death was a list of my MIL’s medicines. I didn’t know her conditions, her doctors, her routines, or her care plan. It took us over a year before I felt confident that we were on a path to health and wellbeing.
Related Post: Establishing Your Role As A Caregiver
I decided I would never leave my MIL’s health in such a precarious place or her caregiver in such absolute confusion. If something were to happen to me or I be called away, I want to ensure my MIL’s life would continue on as normally as possible.
How to Prepare for a Medical Emergency with Elderly Parents
To ensure I stay prepared, I created an emergency checklist. The list is divided into three main areas:
- Care Binder
- Important Items
- Important Phone Numbers
My goal for these preparations is to ensure that if I am not able to provide instructions to the person taking over the care of my MIL, there will be minimal, if any lapse in her care and well-being. I keep the checklist at the front of my care plan and specify where each of the individual items are located in our home.
Important Items to Keep on Hand
I keep both an electronic and paper binder with any information a caregiver might need.
Perhaps the most important section of my care binder is this section of critical information. This section includes the most necessary details of my MIL’s care including:
- Her basic information: name, address, birthdate, basic medical stats, allergies, insurance, and emergency care wishes
- An Emergency Room Checklist: items to bring, notification lists, services to suspend for extended stay, notes for cancellations and rescheduling appointments, arrangements for pets
- Responsible People: those that make decisions (POA, Guardians, Attorney)
- Home Emergency Information: 911 address, landlord, emergency contact, neighbors, police, fire, ambulance, emergency supplies, special instructions, home maintenance numbers
- Important Personal Contacts: those that should be alerted in case of emergencies
- Monthly Schedule Tracking Calendar: doctor appointments, calls to make, medication changes, prescription refills, activities
The next section of my binder contains the information a caregiver would need to provide optimal care for my MIL.
- Information about the caregiver(s)
- Professional Service Providers: doctors, skilled nursing and rehab therapies, personal care, homemaking services
- About the Elder: preferred name, social history and background, relationships, favorites, hobbies, topics of interest, preferences, daily routine overview
- Self-care abilities and needs
- Daily activity log
In this section I keep more detailed medical information.
- Medical Record Keeping Kit
- Details on physicians and specialists
- Medication and pharmacy details
- Health Log
- Medical Information Details: diagnosis, dates, doctors, treatments/status
- Important Medical Events
- Important Tests (blood, CAT, x-ray, MRI, etc)
The final section of my binder is where I keep copies of important key documents and papers (POA, identification cards, living will/advance directive, life insurance, etc) banking information, legal information, account information, and end of life instructions.
This binder allows whoever might be caregiver in my stead to keep my MIL’s routines as normal as possible and ensures there will be no lapse in her care.
Related Post: Keeping Medical Records for Your Aging Parent Made Easy
Even if you are using a pill sorter, you should always have the most recent prescription bottles. Aside from the obvious dosages and medication instructions, you can get a lot of information from a prescription bottle.
- The doctor prescribing the medication and their phone number.
- The pharmacy where medication records are kept.
- Insight into conditions and symptoms.
Packed Hospital Bag
I wasn’t even a full-time caregiver when I learned the necessity of keeping a packed hospital bag. No one wants to try and pack a suitcase while trying to handle and emergency. I keep an extra set of everything my MIL uses in a typical day neatly packed in a small suitcase.
Home Healthcare Supply Kit
This kit has everything a home healthcare provider might need during a typical day.
- First Aid Kit
- Disposable Gloves
- Drug Reference Book
- Hand Sanitizer
- Thermometer and Covers
- Clorox Urine Spray
- Paper Towels
- Blood Sugar Monitor
- Blood Pressure Monitor
Important Phone Numbers
You never want anyone to have to wrack their brain about who to call when emergencies happen. With a list of important phone numbers you won’t have to worry about leaving someone out.
Related Post: The Many Roles in Taking Care of An Aging Parent
- Next of Kin
- Primary Care Physician
- Medical Specialists
- Preferred Hospital
- Insurance Information
When my FIL passed away so suddenly, we were left with a list of medications and a few scattered business cards. It took us almost two years to get my MIL’s health (mental, physical, and emotional) in a good place. My biggest regret is we weren’t more prepared for an emergency.
Keeping these things readily available and updated will go a long way in providing peace of mind for you and your family. When emergencies happen, you’ll have one less thing to worry about and can focus on getting the help you need because you’ve already taken care of the details.
Did you like this post? What are some ways you prepare for a medical emergency with elderly parents? Let me know in the comments below!
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