It only takes a moment for something go wrong, and only a moment to learn that something has happened. If you need to take quick action to get your loved one or client to a hospital, are you–and are they–prepared?
In an emergency, with your adrenalin going, and the need for speed, it can be difficult to think rationally and clearly. It is easy to forget where you have placed important information which could be critical to saving a life. It may also take you time to remember the details, gather it together, and write it down.
Resolve to write an “Emergency Information Document” that can be taken with your loved one or client in an emergency. The following information is essential and should be included in the document:
- The person’s name and date of birth.
- The names of all medications, the dosage and how frequently they are taken,
- Current medical problems and important past medical problems.
- Current treatments and equipment used. These include:
- wound care
- skin care
- Allergies, both to food and medication, and a record of adverse drug reactions including what the reaction was.
- Risk factors, such as a risk for falls, for wandering, for confusion, memory loss or other cognitive impairments.
- Communication or other special concerns, such as visual, hearing, or speech impairment, ability to speak English.
- Family and other emergency contact people. This includes a list, in order, of substitute decision makers.
- Physicians and other personnel involved.
- Copies or indications of Representation Agreements, Powers of attorney,Do Not Resuscitate orders, or others.
This information should be accessible and be up to date. Medication and treatment lists should be revised regularly to make sure they are current. All phone numbers of contact people must be up to date as well.
A copy of this information should be kept in an envelope, and be placed in a prominent place in an elderly person’s home, such as on the refrigerator. It should be clearly marked “Emergency Information for Mrs. — .” A separate copy should be kept in the homes/offices of caregivers. If you do not have a copy, and your loved one or client is taken to hospital, you will have to go to their home to get it. This time lag could be critical.
We invite you to download Diamond Geriatrics’ Emergency Information Document form: Click here to download PDF.
Family Communication in an Emergency
One of the most painful parts of caregiving is making decisions about medical treatments and end-of-life care that could lead to a loved one’s death. These include hospitalization in intensive care units, use of feeding tubes, surgery, intravenous medications, and resuscitation after a heart attack.There is no easy way and no right answers for making these decisions. Moreover, we are often not ready to say goodbye, and there may be no consensus among family members about what to do and when it should be done.
These decisions are even more difficult to make in an emergency situation when emotions are high and people are in crisis. Unfortunately, emergencies often call for quick decisions, leaving very little time for consultation with other family, friends, pastors, etc.
Family members need to be prepared in advance to make decisions in an emergency situation. Have a family meeting to come to consensus about what to do so that any of those involved can make the decisions, and know that they will have the support of the others.
During a family meeting you should discuss:
- What kind of end of life care are you prepared to authorize?
- Who will be authorized to make the decision?
- Who needs to be consulted or included in the conversation or decision? Children? Siblings? Friends? Spouse?
- What kind of consultation do you want from the others involved?
- In an emergency, how do you want to handle these decisions?
- What has the older person indicated and how?
- What kind of condition will “trigger” your making end of life care decisions?
The above are part of larger discussions that family members should have when they are caregivers.A Representation Agreement (British Columbia’s legal version of a living will) is a good place to start, but it is not a replacement for discussion between family members.
The older person should always be included in any decisions if they are able to make their wishes known. If not, their wishes, lifestyle, and values should underlie the decisions made on their behalf. Remember, you are making decisions in the best interest of the older person, not yourself. It is sometimes difficult to do that.