Family caregivers often get a crash course in elder care once they begin looking after elderly relatives. The biggest lesson many learn initially is that organization is key, especially when an older relative develops a need for urgent medical care.
Many families struggle to convey important medical details to health care staff. That’s where creating an emergency packet of medical information can help. This information can be given to paramedics, emergency room staff, and urgent care clinicians.
Here’s how to build your own emergency medical packet.
Include a list of all a senior’s prescription and over-the-counter medications, their exact dosages, and how frequently they are taken.
If your loved one is allergic to any medications, additives, preservatives, or materials like latex or adhesives, be sure to include a list of these things and the severity of their reaction to each.
Include the name and contact information for the patient’s primary care physician. If your loved one regularly sees any specialists for chronic conditions, such as a cardiologist or a neurologist, provide their contact information as well.
Provide general information about a senior’s more serious physical and mental conditions and medical history. For example, diabetes, a pacemaker, dementia, frequent falls, and past cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events (e.g., heart attack, stroke) are all important to include.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order
If a senior does not wish to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or intubation in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest, be sure to include a copy of their state-sponsored and physician-signed DNR order or Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form.
If your loved one has appointed you or someone else as their medical power of attorney (POA), make sure a copy of this legal document is included in their packet. This is crucial for communicating with medical staff and making health care decisions. Ensure your current contact information is included on or with the form as well.
Provide copies of all current insurance cards (both sides), including Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) cards if applicable. This information can help ensure your loved one’s medical care is billed correctly from the start, even if their original cards are left behind.
While emergency rooms must treat patients regardless of whether they have identification or insurance information, many urgent care centers typically require a picture ID to see patients. Include a copy of the senior’s driver’s license (or ID card if they do not drive) in the folder to avoid any problems.
Using the Emergency Medical Folder
Once you have gathered the records listed above, copied them, and assembled the folder, put it in an easily accessible place. If you share caregiving responsibilities with other family members, friends or professional in-home caregivers, inform them of this file’s existence and location.
This packet should be given to paramedics responding to 911 calls, and it should be brought along to walk-ins at the emergency room or urgent care clinic. You may also want to create a folder to keep wherever your loved one spends time, such as adult day care programs or family members’ homes.
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