When Aging Parents Are Unwell (2 of 3): You CAN Prepare for a Visit to the Emergency Department!

Posted by on Jul 30, 2009 in Health Care Team and System | 2 comments

When Aging Parents are Unwell
You CAN Prepare for a Visit to the Emergency Department

Frail seniors are likely to go to a hospital emergency department because of falls or serious acute health problems such as stroke. In most emergency departments, 50% of the patients will be over the age of 65.

You may be the first family member called when a parent is taken to hospital.  There are some things that you and your parents can do to be prepared for the visit to the emergency department.

Talk before the call comes!

Talk to your parents about important documents. Have they assigned enduring power of attorney and written a health care (advance) directive?  Be clear that you are not asking to be named their advocate but you need to know if they have written these legal documents and where to find them

Mutual understanding
Ideally, there should be an understanding and agreement between what your parents expect and what you can provide.  Talk about these expectations – have some “What If’ conversations.

Beliefs
Do your parents have strongly held religious beliefs? Are there any treatments they wish to refuse on religious grounds?

Medical information
Do some research to understand the terms and treatments related to your parent’s health and medical condition(s).

Write down the following information and keep a copy where you can quickly find it.
* Who is your parent’s doctor?
* What specialists do they see?
* What medications do they take?
* What health problems do they have?
* Do they have any allergies?
* Do they have medical insurance?

An emergency bag
Create an “in case of emergency bag.”  Include the medical information above, as well as a notebook and pen – you will want to write down information as the health team gives it to you. Add important phone numbers.

Think about your own comfort as well as that of your parent. Bring layers of clothing, water and snacks, and reading material.

Your benefit program
Have you talked to your employer about benefits and time away related to caring for your aging parent? You will need to be with your parent in the hospital, probably for many hours and possibly for many days.

For more information, consult the ElderWise e-Guide, Seniors in the ER: Survival Strategies for You and Your Parent.

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2 Comments

  1. Maureen,

    Have read and reread all three of these items; found them to be clear, concise and straightforward – thank you, thank you, thank you.  Have taken something from each.

  2.  Bill MacPherson

     Please make sure your loved ones condition or complaints are not "brushed" off as, "Oh he or she is old"… age is not a disease.

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