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How Every Caregiver Should Prepare for Medical Emergencies

By , 10:41 pm on

Emergencies crop up at the worst times.  You might have all the information about your loved one’s mental and physical condition stored in your head, but what good will that do your brother if he needs it while giving you respite from caregiving and you’re 1000 miles away? Or worse, you’re in the emergency room with your dad on Friday night and you know right where his living will and medical power of attorney information is—it’s in the safety deposit box and you cannot access them until Monday morning at 9 a.m.

For on-the-spot access to critical information and medical directives, you and your loved one’s other caregivers need an Emergency Response Kit in both electronic and paper copies.

Gather the following for the Emergency Response Kit:

  • Health insurance and Medicare cards
  • Emergency contact information (name, phone number, relationship)
  • Doctors’ names, contact number and specialty
  • Medical conditions, listing Alzheimer’s/Dementia first, if applicable
  • Past surgeries, dates and reasons
  • Blood type
  • Assistive devices uses (glasses, dentures, hearing aids, oxygen, walker/cane)
  • List of medications, all current and any recent discontinued, OTC or prescription, supplements and creams or ointments
  • Orders for DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) or POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment)
  • Medical directives (living will and health care proxy)
  • Current use of alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs

Copy and distribute:

  1. Paper copies: Place in an envelope clearly labeled “EMERGENCY MEDICAL INFORMATION,” and tape to the back of the main doors of your loved one’s house.  Distribute sets to other family caregivers.  Insist they familiarize themselves with the contents of the medical directives.
  2. Electronic copies: Store pdfs on a password protected, on-line storage site, like Dropbox.  Share access codes with other family or respite/professional caregivers.  Carry a flash drive of the same information for medical personnel to access; or provide them with the password/access codes for the Dropbox.

A complete medical history for your loved one will ease beginning care with a new physician and give medical personnel the best possible information for making diagnosis and treatment decisions. Medical history includes all of the above as well as complete lists of past illnesses, hospitalizations, rehabilitation stays or treatments, all lab and test results, and dates of all doctor’s appointments.  Since you’ll need to update the information after every doctor visit, use Word documents and then save them as pdfs.

Wallet cards are another very important safety measure.  If you are the primary caregiver another person, carry a card which says, “I am the caregiver for John Doe. In the event of an accident, please call these emergency contacts.” Include a list of emergency names and phone numbers. Do not list your elder’s address and phone number. The person for who you are the primary caregiver should also carry a wallet card which says, “In case of accident or emergency, please contact these emergency contacts, one of which should be your name and phone number.

 Be Prepared… thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so… [a scout] is never taken by surprise.

–Robert Baden-Powell

Sounds like good advice.

At Home Care Assistance of Nebraska, we strive to provide the highest quality care to our clients. Our Care Managers are degreed professionals, who create a comprehensive and personalized plan of care for each client, after conferring with doctors, family, and the client.  They train and supervise a consistent care team assigned to each client. Our Care Managers are personally responsible for, and work to ensure, client and family satisfaction.  Call us today, 402-261-5158.


Photo credit:, Littman Stethoscope