Family Crisis: Preparing for a medical event or hospital discharge

When an aging loved has a medical event like a fall or stroke, our geographic area may not be in a state of emergency, but our families certainly are. We make plans for power outages or where to meet if we get separated on vacation, but very few families make plans for how to react to a family emergency with an aging parent or loved one. Though we hope it never occurs, this type of an emergency is much more likely to happen to us in our lifetime than a flood or earthquake. Taking a few steps of preparation can save families important time and stress. Here are a few categories and tips to think through with your family.

Communication: Elder care is almost always a family affair. As families are more and more spread out communicating during a family emergency is crucial.

  • Designate a point person who is local to your aging loved who can respond to the situation and communicate important information and needs to those family members spread out.
  • Make sure each adult in your family has a healthcare power of attorney or a durable power of attorney. Document healthcare wishes so they can speak on your behalf should you be unable to communicate. It is crucial that you have honest conversations with your POA so they can understand both the spirit and details of what you want for yourself during a health emergency.

Documentation: The digital age greatly impacted the way we prepare for an emergency and transmit information. In any emergency kit, you should have a Ziploc bag with copies of important documents as well as a USB flashdrive with digital versions. During a family medical emergency, this can be easily accessed and taken to the hospital.

  • Several professionals can be involved in the care of an aging loved one. You may need to contact them in an emergency or change of condition. Document a current quick list of physicians, specialists, or elder care professionals along with their contact information.
  •  Keep a Personal Health Record up to date with: name, mailing address, social security number, date of birth, home and cell phone, copy of driver’s license, emergency contact information.
  • Keep copies of insurance cards with policy number, POLST forms, healthcare proxy documentation or Durable Power of Attorney. Include a list of important passwords to access benefits, banking, medical records, email, computers, social media, etc. This can be helpful if a loved one needs to take over bill paying or other household management duties for a period of time.
  • Keep a current list of medical conditions as well as medications and dosages you are taking.

Transitional Care Plan: When a loved one is being discharged from the hospital, many families are overwhelmed by the magnitude of responsibility and logistics. Will they be safe in their home? Will they need ongoing care and help with everyday tasks while they recover? Can mom handle helping dad in and out of the car? We’ve been so focused at the hospital, do they even have toilet paper and food at home? When there are more questions than answers, calling the professionals can turn stressful situations into manageable ones.

  • Geriatric Care Manager: Having a Geriatric Care Manager can be a real asset during an emergency or transition. As RNs and MSWs they are skilled in crisis management and the care of aging adults and chronically ill persons. They coordinate appropriate care within the home and navigate the healthcare maze for aging adults and their families. Not only do they manage the crisis and provide transitional care, Care Managers carry families beyond the immediate emergency to create a long-term plan of care for recovery and beyond.
  • Having conversations before crisis is one of the best things families can do for one another. It has the greatest impact on positive outcomes for aging adults and reduces the pressure and stress on adult children and spouses. While thinking about emergencies is never comfortable or easy, vocalizing our values, fears, and wishes before they happen can make all the difference during a real emergency.

Our everyday normal can change in the blink of an eye. Is your family prepared for an emergency? Start the conversation today. At Sound Options, our team of Geriatric Care s has been helping families transition home and stay home since 1989. In the midst of crisis, you still have options in care. Sound Options. Give us a call and start getting real help from real people in real time. 800.628.7649. 

Published on September 5, 2014.