Emergency Response…Or Crisis Mode?

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Health Emergencies |

As family members age, it’s more and more likely that we’ll be faced with an “eldercare event” – a sudden, dramatic change in the status quo, usually related to health. Here are some common examples of what can happen:

  • A frail older person, living alone, suffers a fall, a stroke, or a heart attack and is hospitalized. She must now leave the hospital but cannot safely live alone any more.
  • A healthy spouse who cares for a frail senior dies suddenly. Family members are scattered throughout the country or live overseas.
  • Your parent lives alone, several provinces away. Your last few phone conversations have seemed strange; your parent is rambling and, occasionally, incoherent.
  • Your phone rings at work. The local hospital informs you that Dad has been admitted to the emergency department.
We hope we will never have to deal with situations like these, but it’s unrealistic to believe either that it won’t happen to us or that “we’ll deal with it when something happens”.
When eldercare events occur, it helps everyone if we respond and cope well. Otherwise, we may become part of the problem, not part of the solution. Here are four steps you can take to prevent an emergency turning into a crisis: 
Acknowledge your emotions
Even if you have thought about how you might deal with an elder care event, you cannot predict how you will feel when it happens. Elder care events can involve complex decisions, time pressures and the need to navigate unfamiliar situations and new relationships. Aim to reach a level of calm before responding to the news. Everyone can benefit from deep breathing and a few quiet minutes to wait for the adrenalin rush to subside.
Change your self-talk if it’s making you more anxious.
Self-talk can either increase your panic, or guide you to a more reasoned response. Tell yourself:  “I am calm and capable. I have handled other difficult situations and I will handle this one, too.” Remember the resources you have drawn on in the past to calm yourself and make reasoned decisions.
Assemble your support team.
  • Who might I ask to come and stay with me?
  • Who can give me emotional support on the phone?
  • Who else do I need to call to let them know what is happening?
  • Who can I contact to help me figure out what the right thing is to do for someone else?
Implement an Emergency Plan you have worked out in advance.
Make a checklist. Some situations to consider:
  • At home: Will you need someone to look after your children or anyone else at home that counts on your care?
  • At work: Notify your supervisor. Ideally, you will have had a prior discussion that helps them prepare for this type of event.
  • If you are at a distance from the event, who will you communicate with to monitor the situation?
  • Will you need to travel? What will you take with you?
  • What will you need if you may spend long hours in hospital? Can you pre-pack an emergency kit?
  • What information and documents will you provide to help health care professionals? 
Having a written plan, assembling your support team, and staying calm are important components of planning ahead for and managing an elder care event.
© ElderWise Inc., 2013. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article,if you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents…and anyone wishing to do “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.
To help you prepare a plan, these ElderWise e-guides are available in our on line store:
Seniors in the ER
What to expect and how to help someone in the ER
My Health and Wellness Passport
A guide to assembling important information you’ll need in an emergency



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