When an emergency occurs, how can anyone truly know that they are prepared? After all, the very meaning of an “emergency” is that it is unexpected.
When it comes to seniors, it’s important to think about the types of emergencies that could occur. Perhaps, it will be a health emergency. Can the senior call for help? Will they be cognitively aware enough to give information to the emergency personnel? How will EMS staff know the medications the senior is taking? These are questions that can be addressed and prepared for in advance of any emergency.
To cover many bases at one time, a folder should be kept in a visible location in the kitchen, containing a list of important contacts and important paperwork. Most importantly for seniors, the list should contain all doctors’ names, with their specialties and phone numbers included. Include all the medications that the senior takes, including the strength, dose, prescribing physician, pharmacy and phone number. This is an important part of the list to keep updated. A paramedic reviewing a list of expired prescriptions won’t help anyone. Also, all the information pertaining to medical insurance and prescription plans, such as ID numbers and other vital information should be added to the list.
Other information needs to be included in the folder as well such as the senior’s social security number. If the senior’s health is frail, power of attorney should be determined immediately and the information put into the emergency folder. Legal authority over a senior’s assets needs to be clear in case a senior is unconscious, or unable to express themselves. The other essential document is a health care proxy. This is a legal document that gives another person the power to make medical decisions on behalf of the senior. Without these essential documents, decisions regarding a senior, particularly at the end of life, can be detrimental to the best interests of the senior.
The folder should include the names of children, grandchildren, and friends who can provide help and information if needed. Those on the list should know that an emergency folder exists and where it is located in the home.
The key to dealing with a potential emergency is to prepare in advance. Without forethought and planning, friends and family run the risk of just “winging it” when trouble strikes. “Winging it” does not equal emergency preparedness. When things get stressful and the pressure is on everyone involved will be thankful that there are predetermined instructions to turn to. The time saved by having everything in order beforehand can make a significant difference in the ability of emergency crews to address the needs of the senior.
Here are some helpful items to keep organized so you can be completely prepared for an emergency situation.
- Specification of your elderly parent’s or relative’s wishes about resuscitation orders. Do you know their wishes? Knowing this information before a crisis can be crucial to the way in which you handle the crisis.
- Basic financial records, including a list of assets, account numbers, names and contact information for financial advisors or bank representative.
- Names and addresses of people to notify in case of an emergency — such as children, grandchildren, close friends and neighbors who might be able to help out.
- Names and contact information for local clergy, if your parent or elderly relative has a preferred religious affiliation.
An emergency could be anything from the health crisis, such as a heart attack or stroke, to losing power during a major snowstorm or thunderstorm. Being prepared is one of the most important steps to managing and handling any emergency situation.
The best way to go about preparing for a potential emergency situation is to envision different scenarios that could occur. The senior care service provider can do this on their own, while they are at home lying in bed, sitting in the chair, or have the TV on. Once it is determined that this is an actual health emergency, get to a phone and call 911 immediately. While dialing 911, if it’s on a cell phone or cordless phone, return to the patient and await instructions from the 911 operator.
What about other emergency situations? If it’s a natural disaster or major snowstorm, for example, come up with a plan that would make sense to help the patient in the best way possible.