Emergencies come in a variety of shapes and sizes; never at the most opportune times. When I think of emergency, I think natural disasters, a fall, a sudden illness, some event that requires quick action. Preparation for inevitable emergencies is important, whether or not you are caring for someone.
You and your family may know all the safe exits in your home. You may have a storm shelter stashed with all the needed items for a short stay should a sudden storm arise. Each member of your household has been told where the important phone numbers are located and who to call in case of an emergency.
If you have need of outsiders coming in to help care for your loved one, you have given this information to the agency and the attendant. Your emergency response plan is in force, you are well prepared. Or, are you?
Let’s say you are caring for your mother in your home. The hired caregiver, Karen, has arrived and you are on your way to a well-earned outing with friends. Karen has been to your home before; she’s very reliable and you are comfortable leaving her in charge.
Let’s suppose an emergency arises while you are gone and Karen has to make a decision quickly concerning her patient’s care. She has contacted her supervisor or nurse and it’s determined she must call 911. Calls to your cell phone have been to no avail.
Your mother is unable to communicate well due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Does Karen know her physician? Her medicines? Her allergies? Does she know where to find you? Will she know where to have the emergency team take her?
While caring for my Mother, agencies would often send caregivers in who did not know us. Even family and friends who helped may not have automatically known the answers to the above questions.
I made a small card with information on it for anyone (including us) to give to ambulance or emergency room personnel or to any one who may need the information. I taped a copy of this card to the wall in every room in the house including the bathrooms and kitchen, and by the front door. I did not expect emergencies to arise but I did prepare in case they did.
#1. Begin with the basic information: name of person, home address, and birth date. Be sure to list the relationship and names of others living in the home.
#2. Be thorough as you consider the medical information needed: their physician’s name and phone number, hospital of choice, medicines and supplements currently taking, and any known allergies.
#3. List any disabilities, both physical and mental. Be sure to list any problems they may have in communicating truthfully to others.
#4. Be practical in considering what to list. It may be good to list your vehicles and license plates. In a case of extreme emergency, a patrolman may have to search for you. Cell phones are a great tool but not always reliable.
I realize these types of lists depend upon the patient, the circumstances, the area you live in, and other factors. For me, this list gave me great peace of mind and was actually helpful to me on those several occasions when we had to call an ambulance to take Mother to the hospital. I’m sure the emergency team was thankful to have that information readily available.
We all care for others in one way or another. Why not consider your family’s needs and prepare a list like this for each family member? Tuck one in the glove compartment of your car and by your telephone, and be prepared in the event of an emergency.