Emergency Preparation: Helping Older Adults Stay Safe

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Caregivers can support peace of mind for everyone, especially their senior loved ones, with this easy-to-follow list for emergencies

You may have heard the saying that the best way to help prevent bad things from happening is to prepare for them. We take that saying to heart, and whether you are exploring assisted living or memory care, or you care for a senior living at home, these tips can help. Being prepared for medical emergencies is one of the most important ways we have to offer peace of mind to loved ones and ourselves.

If you are a long-distance caregiver, or you travel a lot or are busy with work and family responsibilities, the following list will be especially helpful:

Emergency Information

Identify a local contact as an emergency advocate, unless you are prepared to fill that role yourself.

Assemble emergency information, such as medication lists, medical history and emergency contact information. Keep the information up to date; and post it with other emergency information on the refrigerator and in your loved one’s personal papers.

Provide Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release forms and help your loved one fill them out and sign them. That lets health care providers know they have permission to share health care information with the advocate.

Making Decisions & Action Readiness

Advanced care directives give us the means to decide for ourselves what kind of treatment we prefer. If an emergency occurs and your loved one has completed an advanced health care directive, their wishes can be followed by health care providers. If appropriate, obtain a durable “do not resuscitate order and / or a physician orders” so your loved one can maintain clarity and make informed decisions for any medical treatment.

Be sure your older loved one’s home address is clearly visible so emergency responders can find it, especially if you and loved ones live in a rural area where streetlights are not plentiful. This may be as simple as refreshing paint or swapping house number styles to produce greater contrast, improving visibility.

Ensure there’s room for a stretcher to exit your senior’s home in a horizontal position. It’s also helpful to determine the best way to make it easy for emergency responders to enter your loved one’s home.

Ask a loved one what will help keep them comfortable in the event of an emergency room visit. Be sure these items are present and readily available, should they be needed.

Monitoring Wellness

Choose and use a personal emergency response system. The system allows you or another responsible person can be alerted in case of a fall, burglary or another emergency.

Monitor medication compliance. Your parent, grandparent or another relative may either be taking medications that are no longer needed, or not taking medications that are important for their health.

Check in on medication use regularly. Check in on your loved one regularly, in person. There is no substitute for an in-person visit, however especially for seniors with memory loss, your check-ins can provide continuity and clarity when speaking with loved ones or health care providers who want an understanding of progression of events over time.

Once you and your loved one are prepared for a medical emergency, you’ll rest easier. Chances are you won’t encounter an emergency, or at least, not very often. If you do, however, you can feel assured that you and your loved one are prepared.