Emergency preparedness for a caregiver of a patient with a serious health condition or for a senior who lives alone is important. Being prepared for an emergency starts with a conversation long before an ambulance arrives. The first step is to have a conversation with your local police, and emergency medical personnel. Inform them that you are caring for yourself alone or for a loved one who has a serious, chronic health condition.
To help the first responders out when they walk into your house during a medical or household emergency, there are two things you can do to inform them of your needs and the needs of a patient. First, talk to them before an emergency, then have an emergency information page ready when they arrive.
First, make a phone call to the police and to the fire station on the non-emergency phone number, and tell them that you are the caregiver for a person with a serious disability or medical condition. Or, tell them that you are a senior who lives alone and has a serious medical condition, and will need their help in an emergency. Let the officer take notes about the caregiving situation, your address, phone, and medical needs. Make certain these notes are kept with important information available to the first responders for such emergencies.
More about Medication Forms.
What They Need to Know
What do the first responders know about your home environment? Consider what they need to know when they come to your house. Do you have locked gates, guard dogs, or a security system at your house? If you live in a remote area, a fire-prone or a flood-prone area, if you or the patient cannot get outdoors quickly, those are facts that the first responders need to know. Then they can locate you and assist you and the patient to get to safety as needed.
Who Answers the Door?
If the patient is unable to use the phone independently, or if the patient is unable to communicate understandably in English, the first responder does need to know that before they encounter communication problems. Tell them if the patient does not speak English or has communication problems on the phone or in person. Knowing this can save a first responder precious time in an emergency.
Family Responses in an Emergency
When the patient or another family member has dementia, autism, an intellectual disability, or a mental illness which could cause them to be very confused or upset in an emergency. Tell them so the responder will be prepared to calm them as much as possible. Also, If there are neighbors or nearby family members who would come to the house if there was an emergency, then let the first responders know who those people are. If you have a gun in the house, then it would be good to inform the responders.
It helps responders to know beforehand if the patient depends on a wheelchair, is blind or deaf, or has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions will influence the communication, interaction and preparedness of responders in an emergency. For example, if the patient is dependent on oxygen and you have oxygen in use at your home, emergency medical personnel need to know that. Also, when the patient has a mental health condition and requires medication, responders certainly need to know about that.
Emergency Information List
It is very important to have a page of accurate medical information about the patient. Include medications lists and all contact information for an emergency. The information should tell the patient’s full name, birthday, medical conditions, blood type, doctor’s name and phone number and preferred hospital and ER. All medications, prescription and over-the-counter, should be correctly spelled and listed, with the dosage and frequency. List the name of the person who has durable medical power of attorney and their phone number.
Keep two copies of emergency information page available and visible at all time. Fasten the copies to your fridge or put them on a bedside table so they are accessible to emergency personnel.
Keep a copy in your purse, or in your wallet so whenever you go to the ER. Then you will be prepared to give specific and accurate information about the patient.
Helping Each Other
You may think that the emergency personnel in your town will be too busy to talk with you. Even about your emergency preparedness for a possible future emergency involving you or a family member. In fact, I believe that the emergency personnel at the fire station and the police station will appreciate your efforts. So inform the first responders before an emergency happens. You are helping them to be better prepared. Better able to do their job, to give needed care, and to quickly resolve the emergency.
Stay Safe and Healthy at Home!