The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has released tips for the adult children of elderly parents who find themselves facing a medical crisis. The emergency room can be a daunting experience. These tips may make the experience slightly less stressful.
When possible, the caregiver or accompanying adult should bring to the emergency room a completed Medical History Form. The form should list any allergies, the medications the elderly person is taking, and both past and current medical conditions. This form should be given to the intake attendant.
In addition to the Medical History Form, have on hand a list of the medical health professionals the elderly patient sees, such as cardiologist, oncologist, etc. Have their names and contact information written down, as well as the reasons for their care and how long the elder has been under their care. Also include any information about recent surgeries, such as pace makers or hip replacements, and include complete insurance and identifying information.
The emergency physicians also suggest that any caregiver or attending adult bring a change of clothing and personal items, and should expect that the elderly individual will be admitted for overnight or extended care. While this may not happen, arriving prepared will save time and effort later. The items can always be left in the car “just in case.” Also, caregivers may wish to bring reading material to pass the time while the patient is waiting to be seen or for test results. Elderly patients make take longer than expected to have a complete workup, especially if they have multiple issues or complaints which must be investigated.
The ACEP also suggests that the caregiver clarify to the attending physician if the patient’s state of mind is altered or if he or she is confused. If the caregiver is given information and instructions, he or she should share that information with the patient; work to keep them informed and allow them to make their own medical care choices.
Many elderly patients downplay their symptoms when in the ER, doctors report. Be prepared and willing to clarify with additional information, if needed.
And long before that trip to the ER is a possibility, they say, consider discussing with the elderly parent about the possibility of their drafting a living will. When in the midst of tough decision-making such as when the condition is a life-threatening one, it can make a significant difference in how family members approach some choices that must be made.
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