Emergencies

Preventing and being prepared for emergencies.

Janet Sunita

Most of us are caught up in the physical world with our work, families, our careers, personal goals, and other ambitions. However, none of us knows when we might be presented with the challenge of an emergency when we may be called on to care for a parent, a spouse, a child, a relative or a friend in the midst of our busy life. Most of us do not want to think of this likelihood, yet many of us may perhaps already be in a situation of care giving a loved one.  If you are already care giving a loved one then this article may offer some help in taking some steps to cope with emergencies or even prevent emergency situations occurring.

Informal Caregivers (spouses, children, parents, relatives), are increasing in number on a daily basis. Informal caregivers are being challenged to cope with serious illnesses, accidents and debilitating maladies, either short- or long-term. Sometimes, the role of informal caregiving is thrust on us when we least expect it, and at other times we are eased into the role of informal caregiving because we happen to be the only person conveniently located to the patient’s home or hospital or we may happen to be the only family member available in the same city as the carereceiver.  In this scenario, whatever be the situation, as a caregiver we basically take on the entire responsibility by adjusting and accommodating our lives around the needs of the carereceiver.

We have found that many ailing seniors, for example, prefer to live in their own home. But because of the many commitments to employers and family, sometimes it is necessary to make arrangements for the senior member to move into your home. Regardless of which home they are in, the important thing to remember is that seniors, as well as children, must reside in an environment which provides optimum safety and care to serve their needs. By preparing in advance, you will not only provide protection for the care-receiver but you will create a home which also allows the senior/carereceiver more independence.

Being prepared and alert will go a long way to prevent accidents and emergencies that one can ill afford at this time of additional responsibility. Some of the suggested preventive measures are simple and can easily be put in place.  Besides offering the care-receiver an additional measure of comfort and independence, these measures will also benefit other members of the household.

The preventive measures being suggested here are by no means a comprehensive list, since the illnesses can vary in the scope of seriousness, age of the care-receiver, longevity of the illness and many other factors.

Preparing the space/s in the home:
•    Is there a lamp or light switch reachable from the bed?
•    Is the telephone conveniently placed by the bed so that it will not fall and is easily accessible to the carereceiver?
•    Is a torch/flashlight placed by the bed for use of the caregiver when the power is cut off?
•    Is there a bedside commode/bedpan if the patient needs it?
•    Is there a hand bell/electronic bell easily accessible, which could be used to summon help?
•    Is the floor of the room skid proof?  And are the floors free of damaged carpets/rugs on which your care-receiver could catch their foot and fall?
•    Are there any dangling or exposed electrical wires?
•    Does the care-receiver require a medical bed, and are bedrails installed if needed? These beds can be rented or purchased.
•    Is there a hospital type table that can fit over the bed if the carereceiver is bedridden?
•    Is an air/water mattress needed to reduce bed sores?  These can be rented or purchased.
•    Are there clamps to hold the sheets in place so that they will not bunch up?  Crumpled sheets can cause chafing and bed sores in bedridden patients.
•    Is there a walker required to allow the care-receiver some measure of independence?
•    Safe and skid proof footwear for the care-receiver.
•    Adequate ventilation, and furniture placed clear of passageways.

Is medical equipment installed in the home for the carereceiver?
Do you and/or your formal caregiver know the proper safety requirements, management and operation of all medical equipment being used? If not, then appropriate training could be requested for from the hospital or the patient’s doctor.  The training should also include how to properly clean the equipment to ensure against malfunction.
Do you know who to contact in case there is a problem with the equipment?  This information requires to be written in the patient’s file/binder for easy use.

If Oxygen is being used:
Are you aware of the danger of smoking where oxygen equipment is present? Is there a ‘no smoking’ sign posted on the door to the patient’s room? Do you know how to store the cylinders properly?   This information is important to convey to all members of the family, and to get from the hospital/doctor.
Important:  Do you know the correct way to administer oxygen and in what amounts?

Medications
Allot a convenient space for medications, preferably within the room of the patient, but out of reach of children.
Make sure all old or expired medications are safely thrown away.
If medications are changed, the previous stocks of medications should be disposed of, be returned to the chemist, or donated to a hospital.
Only the latest and up-to-date prescription should be handy in a folder and all adult members of the household informed.
Ensure that medication covers/lids can be easily opened, if your care-receiver is able to take their own medications.
Make sure medications are clearly out of reach of a care-receiver who is not coherent/ is depressed, or if children are in the home.  In these circumstances, medications should be accessible only to the adult members in the house.
Important:  Make sure all poisonous substances are out of view and reach of the patient.  And all toxic products are marked and stored for use only by the caregiver and other adults in the home.

Pin Board in the patient’s room, which could display:

  • Timings for medications
  • Timings for meals and liquid intake
  • Emergency Telephone Numbers, including Doctor/s
  • Any special instructions given by the Hospital or Doctor
  • Other important notes for temporary caregivers/members of the family

As well as other cheerful material like cards, notes. etc for the care-receiver to see!

Emergency Information
Whether you live long distance or are directly caring for your loved one, it is important to have detailed information readily at hand for emergency purposes. You must know what documents are needed and where they are located. This information should be accessible to yourself as the primary caregiver and to those who will be caring for the care-receiver if you are not available. By preparing this information, you will be ensuring that you are better prepared should emergencies arise. We encourage you to print out these pages, keeping them in a safe place, preferably a binder.
Please remember to keep all emergency information up-to-date.

Carereceiver/Patient:  Name:  ______________________________________

Nickname:_______________    .

Address______________________________________________

City: _____________________        Pin: ________

Phone: ___________________

Blood Type: ____

Disease(s)/ Illness/ Condition:     ___________________________

____________________________________________________________________

Allergies:        __________________________________________________

Other Important Info:

____________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

Primary Doctor:   _________________________Phone:  _______________

Secondary Doctor : ________________________Phone: ________________

Hospital:  _____________________ Patient No. ___________________

Hospital: ______________________ Patient No. ___________________

Chemist:

Name:________________________________

Address______________________________________________

Phone:________________      Hours of work:________________________

Allergies General  ____________ ________________ _________________

Allergies To Medications: ______________ _______________

_______________

Special Instructions:
_______________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________

Formal Caregiver / Care Attendant:

Name:_____________________

Address______________________________________________

City: _____________________    State: _______    Pin: ________

Home Phone: _________________Cell Phone:________________

Informal Caregiver:

Name:_____________________        .

Address______________________________________________

City: _____________________    State: _______

Phone / Cell : _________________

Relationship To Care receiver : ____________

Emergency Phone Numbers:  (Note:  This may be clipped on the Pin Board too!)

Police: __________________

Fire: ________________

Ambulance: _______________     Hospital: __________________

Others: ___________________________________________________

Relative/Friend or Neighbour:

Name:_____________________

Address______________________________________________

City: _____________________    State: _______

Home Phone: _________________Cell Phone:________________

Relationship To Care receiver: ____________

Health Insurance Company(s):

Company : __________________________________________

Policy No: ___________________________

Policy Start Date:  _________  End Date: ______________

Phone : ___________________

Contact Person: _____________________

Address: ______________________________

City: __________________________ State: _________ Pin: _________

2 comments

  1. janet says:

    Thank you for responding to the article Runa. I hope more people read it and add to these tips from their individual experiences, as I invite you too :)

  2. Runa Sood says:

    This is a very useful article . Easy to read and comprehend . Practical and well thought out . Definitely helpful , for caregivers who may not be used to what they are doing , and those who are too caught up in the situation to think straight .
    Should be circulated widely , as emergencies can hit anyone at anytime .

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