Are You Prepared For An Emergency?
Planning ahead for an emergency makes the real crisis less stressful.
Have all the information you need handy. You need your parent’s photo ID at many emergency rooms now, their SSN, health information cards (Medicare and any other insurance), their primary care physician’s name and any specialists they see. You also need a list of current medications and their most recent health summary, listing any current or long-standing health issues. Know which clergyman to call.
I keep the most recent health summary/medication list (we get an updated copy after each doctor visit) in neon folders hanging on the wall next to our house phone and a copy of a POLST form for each parent. POLST is an acronym for Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment is in the folders too. It covers “end-of-life” issues. I know it is a hard topic to discuss.
I wanted clarity about what end-of-life care my parents wanted and to know they understood the terms and implications. CPR is rough on a 90-plus year old. Their bones are brittle, their bodies frail. We discussed realistic outcomes of intubation, CPR, ventilators and feeding tubes for their age and health issues. We talked about it at home. Then we discussed it with their doctor and answered their questions. The doctor signed the completed form. If we need to call paramedics, they know exactly what my parents wishes are. Many seniors keep them on their refrigerator. EMTs know to look there. If no direction has been given in writing, EMTs have to (legally) use all live-saving measures. Each state has different POLST forms. You can find the information for your state online or your doctor can help you. Below are the links for Washington and Oregon:
My parents didn’t understand the terms and thought all life saving measures should always be performed. They had gotten the idea that an advance directive (like the POLST) was the same as euthanasia. I’m so glad we talked about it.
Isn’t it better to know your parent’s wishes, talk about it when emotions aren’t running high in a crisis? I want to tell the ER doctor, “This is what my parent wants and what we have agreed on.” I have seen families in crisis. One sibling thinks “Mom” wants this, the other disagrees and the spouse thinks something completely different. It’s ugly and painful.
Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care It’s a legal document. My husband and I had our attorney prepare one along with our will. With it I can sign permission-to-treat papers. I know some parents refuse to talk about end-of-life issues. You can’t force your parent to decide, but you can ask. Let them know you really want to honor their wishes. Appeal to their love of family. No one wants squabbles in a hospital waiting room. Your parents may want to have this discussion with their doctor or their attorney, an unemotional outsider.
Know which hospital your parent wants. If emergency services respond, your parent will go to the nearest hospital. If you are in a city, you may have a choice. It may seem silly but when the EMTs ask which hospital you prefer, it’s good to know.
Who will care for the senior’s beloved pet. I’ve seen seniors who refuse to go to the hospital because they don’t want to leave their pet. Knowing their pet is well cared for gives them peace of mind.
My parents have an emergency button connected to our home security system. Yes, the “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” kind. Since Mom is too confused to use it now, Dad does. He calls it his “dog tags”. We don’t leave my parents alone but if for some reason I couldn’t hear them (I do take showers), they could call for help.
This links to a page explaining what emergencies need a 911 call and actions to take for non-emergent issues.
If nothing else, take a deep breath and stay calm. Observe and concentrate on symptoms to report to the first responders. You can fall apart after the professionals arrive. When the crisis has passed, know you are the one who cares, doing the best you can. That’s all anyone can ask of you.
I know this wasn’t a fun topic today. Thanks for staying with me.