Plan Ahead - And Be PreparedBy Karen L. Whitmore
It was 4:30 in the morning. Alice had slipped out of her bed headed to the kitchen for a glass of water. As her feet touched the floor, she knew something was wrong. Her attempt to walk was failing. She was losing her balance and running into walls. As she tried to reach a chair, she collapsed. Remarkably healthy all of her life, she was frightened - never before had she had to contend with something like this. In pain, she called for her husband. Two minutes later, he called 911.
Soon a big red fire truck arrived with red lights flashing, sirens on full blast, and a crew of firemen on board. An ambulance transporting the EMTs (emergency medical team) followed. The team first recorded basic vitals, leading to the decision that Alice required hospitalization. They strapped her to the gurney, rolled her out the door, and slid the gurney into the ambulance.
The EMTs had checked for the closest hospital with beds available and told Alice's husband where they would be taking her. They did not allow him to join her in the ambulance. Rather, he was left completely on his own. Since he no longer drove, he had to find someone to take him to the hospital.
Alice arrived at the hospital with nothing other than her pajamas.
In a recent meeting of the Pasadena Village's “Adapting When Life Gets Tough” group, the members discussed emergency responses to medical crises. They agreed that rarely do we plan for an ambulance ride to the hospital! But they also realized that as seniors, it's no longer “if”, but “when”. Emergencies are more likely to happen as we age, and we are often ill prepared to deal with them.
In Alice’s case, she arrived at the hospital with no identification, no information about medical insurance, no information about her overall health or medications, no phone - nothing with her that would facilitate admission to the hospital and the formal initiation of medical care.
The group went on to ask, “How could we minimize the trauma of an experience like Alice's? What could we do to avoid the difficulties she experienced?” After much discussion, they concluded that a solution to address the problems Alice faced was to “Plan Ahead, and Be Prepared.” The group came up with the following suggestions.
Assemble a small tote as a “To Go” bag. Keep it in a location where it is visible and available to grab as you go out the door. Include in it:
· A copy of your driver’s license or picture ID
· A copy of proof of medical insurance
· An emergency contact list with phone numbers – e.g., spouse, caregivers, close friends and relatives
· A list of your current medications
· A list of medications to which you are allergic
· A copy of the DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) if there is one.
· A small blanket and sweater or coat (waiting rooms are often very cold)
· A pair of socks
· Your home address and phone number
· Your phone cord and charger if you have a spare
· The identity of someone to bring the spouse to the hospital
· For those with iPhones: at the top of your contact list is your personal information card, where you can note your medical ID, phone numbers, email addresses, medical conditions, medication, allergies, drug reactions, blood type, height and weight and emergency contacts. Red stars mark the emergency contacts on your contacts pages. If your iPhone is locked, anyone (e.g., EMTs) can still view your medical ID by tapping “emergency”, then “Medical ID”. When you use Emergency SOS to call emergency services, your iPhone also sends a message with your current location to designated emergency contacts who have mobile numbers.
A good habit to develop is to take your phone with you whenever you are away from your home, even if you are merely taking a short walk. Make doubly sure that your phone is with you if you leave your home in an emergency. In many hospitals, the nurses can put your phone on your charger in a special recharging area reserved for patients.
Hopefully you will find that this kind of preparation will smooth the way to the hospital and have a positive effect on your stay there.